How did the FBI seize 26000 BTC? I thought that all wallets are supposed to be safe. Can you give the technical details?


1 Answer 1


To participate in Silk Road, users had to deposit funds with Silk Road. The FBI gained access to the private keys corresponding to these user balances. Thus, the FBI was able to transmit the funds to an FBI controlled wallet and confiscate the assets.

Following up on the question how they might have gained access:
The software running on the Silk Road server must have had spending access to the Silk Road users' internal balances. Therefore, there must have been a mechanism to unlock the wallet (assuming an encrypted wallet was used). The passphrase would have been available to the program, concluding from the outcome, likely in the files on the server. As the server was probably running when it was seized, the FBI might have been able to access the files directly and thus gain access.

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    Basically the question was asking how could they gain access to the private keys?
    – Pacerier
    Oct 22, 2013 at 9:38
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    Can you clarify - why should the Silk Road server have access to the users addresses? and which users - the merchants or the buyers? I thought that Silk Road is an ebay "clone", and I know for a fact that ebay doesn't have access to any of its merchants or buyers paypal accounts, its just a mediator...
    – ihadanny
    Oct 22, 2013 at 17:43
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    @ihadanny Silk Road is more like an ebay+PayPal clone. PayPal has access to its users funds when they are in transit or waiting to be transferred or withdrawn. Oct 22, 2013 at 20:29
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    @ihadanny don't forget: Bitcoin users can have any number of addresses. The Silk Road server may have owned an address for each buyer, or even for each transaction. In this setup, the buyer transfers BTC to "his" SR account, where it's held until the transaction is complete. Then the funds are transferred to the seller and to the SR profits account. This avoids having the server know any private keys belonging to its users, but offers transparency to the buyer that the funds are still being held in escrow.
    – Crispy
    Oct 22, 2013 at 22:47
  • Cool. I found an ebay+paypal counter for this "escrow" method, which is described here: paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/holds-reserves
    – ihadanny
    Nov 4, 2013 at 17:44

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