I’ve spent the last day looking for any trace of Rob on the dark web. Surprisingly, I had some luck! I’m very aware that time might be running out for this essay, as the things I’m uncovering seem to be getting more and more illegal. I wouldn’t be surprised if this blog gets filed with a genuine cease and desist notice before long. But until that happens, I’m going to keep posting. Onwards!
Dark Web Questionnaire
I started my investigations by running a search on the dark web for ‘silentwakes’. Rob was using that name on LiveJournal since 2011, so I was hoping he’d have used the name elsewhere too, but there wasn’t anything.
I checked the email inbox on his laptop again, looking for other websites he had accounts with. That way I’d be able to see what usernames he had registered. But they all used the username ‘silentwakes’ too, so that didn’t give me any clues.
In the end, I found Rob by using a domain name he registered back in 2014. I ran a search on the dark web for http://www.silentwakesficarchive.com, because I knew he’d been caught out using a personal website to host photos once before when he was trying to stay anonymous.1
Nothing came up for that URL, but I remembered that he had another website domain, one he bought for his degree coursework in 2014, www.copyrightsurveyanswers.com. I found that on his email account, as mentioned in Chapter 15. The website has been taken down now, but when I ran a search for the URL on the deep web, I found these posts in a forum.2
He was asking questions for his degree at first. That’s how it started.
uniwork14: I was wondering if I could interview someone about how they use the deep web to share copyrighted intellectual property through pirating and torrenting? It’s for school. Anon, of course. You can fill out the survey here: http://www.copyrightsurveyanswers.com
Tygerbright: What are you studying, kid?
uniwork14: Law. I’m shadowing a lawyer over the summer who’s working on a copyright case. I’m writing a paper about the growing ways in which materials are being shared online. Mainly its teaching me a lot about torrenting, which im not sure is the intended outcome.
Tygerbright: Do you have access to the firm’s network? Have they given you a login?
uniwork14: Sure. I’m using some client research for my project. They’ve got a lot of data from the movie company who hires them to take down movie copyright infringements online.
Tygerbright: If you have access to the network that means you have access to things I can use. Want a job for some pocket money?
uniwork14: Will you give me an interview too?
Tygerbright: I’ll give you 50000 usd in bitcoin, how about that
uniwork14: Uh….if you’re serious, deal. Obviously.
After that, their conversation went private.
I can’t work out what this means. Why would someone pay Rob money to get access to a law firm’s network? Why so much money? This user must be making even more, if he can offer that much to a stranger on a whim.
Whatever is going on here, I’m going to guess that @tygerbright paid Rob this amount in Bitcoin. So we’ve possibly found the origin of the @lillyletters donation.
I bet it would have driven Rob mad to have so much money, but in the inaccessible Bitcoin format. He wouldn’t have been able to spend it on anything except illegal stuff on the deep web, which isn’t much use for a student who needs grocery money. (I did notice ‘uniwork14’ has a shop friended which sells weed, so I imagine at least some of the Bitcoins were used for nefarious purposes.)
Rob must have needed to find a way to get the Bitcoin into his real-life bank account in USD, with an excuse for where it came from, just in case the tax man came knocking.
Rob was already in the Loch & Ness fandom at the time, so the fake donation route must have seemed like an obvious answer to his problem. I think he got caught a lot earlier than he was expecting to, though. If he was earning as much as @tygerbright offered in the forum post, he had a lot more money than $13,000 that he needed to get into USD. He just chose that amount because that was the legal limit for a monetary gift without it being taxed.
I don’t know if he ever got the rest of the money out through a different route. This is as far as I’ve got.
I’m trying to find out what @tygerbright could have wanted to use Rob’s law firm access for, but this is by far the hardest piece of research I’ve ever had to do, for anything. The deep web is completely locked down. The whole point of it is to be anonymous. They don’t want anyone to know what’s going on, ever.
For today, I’m calling it quits. It hurts my brain too much.
Involvement from Nathan’s friend Bradley Saffitz
To try and find out more about Rob’s mysterious conversation with Nathan’s friend Bradley in the street this week, I tracked down Bradley’s social media accounts. He had a really weak password on his Facebook account, and I got access. Bradley had messages from Nathan dating as recently as a few weeks ago.
Here’s a few excerpts of interest. Several months ago they had this short conversation:
Nathan: great to see you yesterday! Here’s that thing: [link to a website to download torrenting software].
Bradley: ah great, say thanks to rob!
Bradley: ask rob if I should seed or leech
Nathan: rob says ‘you should seed to be nice, but swap to leech if your internet goes slow’. I have no idea what that means, please don’t ask any follow up qus. What do you need this for again?
Bradley: gaming stuff
Nathan: ah. not my area, then.
Bradley: what does rob use torrenting for?
Nathan: I’d rather not know.3
Bradley: haha I hear you. and it would be great if you could pass on my headshots to your agent again. I’m not even getting auditions these days. Getting slightly worried about it. I haven’t had a job in months
Nathan: I’ll email her tomorrow. Don’t worry, something will come along soon, it always does.
Bradley: as long as its before my visa needs renewing, I’m not too bothered. See you at the galaxy game next week!
Then two weeks after that:
Nathan: Did you catch the game last week?
Bradley: I did! So close, dude. Next time.
Nathan: You should come over and watch the Sunday game here. Rob’ll be busy with freelance work
Bradley: sounds good man. I’ll bring my trunks
Nathan: hell yeah, we’ll get our hot tub on.
Bradley: great. I need it. Gotta get my head on straight. This visa plea is driving me round the bend.
Nathan: you’ll get it. I know you will. They’d be stupid to chuck you out just because you’re going through a slow patch. You’ll get a job any day now and it’ll all be fine.
Bradley: urgh. I can’t think about it anymore. Let’s just get wasted.
Nathan: I wish there was something I could do to help. I feel so guilty, dragging you out to LA with me
Bradley: haha, it’s not your fault you’re earning the big bucks and I’m not.
Nathan: offer is still open to lend you money if you need it
Bradley: ah, mate. It’s not the money that’s the issue. I have savings. it’s the income bracket, you know that. unless you can forge me an employment form I have no hope lol
Nathan: hmmm. Come over, let’s talk to rob about this.
I’m not sure what freelance work he’s talking about Rob doing here. Maybe he means some acting work outside of his contract with NBC, like filming an advert?
Then, another chat took place between Bradley and Nathan just before Nathan and Rob were seen at the immigration court:
Bradley: Nate, I’m still not sure about this. Do you really think it’s a good idea?
Nathan: rob has done this before. I trust him.
Bradley: I’m risking everything here. I could go to jail if this goes wrong.
Nathan: it wont. He knows what he’s doing.
Nathan: but we can find another way if you are really that worried. You can always fly home and come back next year.
Bradley: no, I trust you. and you trust him. If he says he’s done this before, then…. Maybe it will be fine.
Nathan: relax, mate. It’ll be over and done with in a few days.
Bradley: hah. We’ll see. I’ve not known the immigration office to do anything in a few days that could take a few months.
So. It seems that Bradley was having visa issues too. What does that mean? Is this connected, or have I totally lost the plot?
I am so frustrated and confused by this whole thing. Everything I learn seems to just raise more questions. I know that I’m so close to an answer. This must all link together, somehow. But how? What is this all about?
It’s 3am, and I’ve been reading forum pages all day, so I’m going to go to bed and try to work this out tomorrow. If any of you have any suggestions on what the heck they’re playing at here, I would really, really appreciate it.
Meanwhile, Nathan’s break from filming has been extended by another week, according to the tabloids. Clearly I’m not the only one over-stretching themselves. He must be sick or something. He needs to take it easy.
– This is Margot, signing off as she falls asleep on the keyboard.