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In this episode, former agent Chris Tarbell reviews his investigation and the takedown of the billion-dollar, cryptocurrency-based drug underground marketplace “Silk Road” and the arrest of its founder. The investigation, code-named Operation Onion Peeler, resulted in the largest seizure of bitcoins to date.
Chris Tarbell served in the FBI for nearly 10 years, specializing in cyber investigations and incident response. Initially, he was hired as a CART Forensic Examiner stationed at Quantico, engaging in rapid-response investigations all over the world supporting matters related to terrorism, botnets, and other cybercrimes. Later, the FBI appointed him as a special agent and assigned him to FBI’s preeminent cybercrime squad in New York.
During his career, besides the takedown of Silk Road, Chris was also the lead investigator on several of the Bureau’s most complex and cutting-edge cybercrime cases, including the investigation and arrest of the leadership of Anonymous and the LulzSec hacking crews.
Chris is certified as a subject-matter expert on cellphones and other mobile computing devices, and the Windows and Unix/Linux operating systems and has been qualified in federal court as an expert witness in computer forensics, providing expert testimony in multiple federal criminal trials.
Currently, Chris is the co-founder of NAXO is a cybersecurity and investigations firm focused on cryptocurrency, digital forensics, and cyber defense.
Composed of former FBI special agents, computer scientists, and forensic experts, the company provides proactive and reactive services to law enforcement, legal teams, and growing companies.
Listen to Hacker And The Fed, the podcast, Chris co-hosts with his former subject, Hector Monsegur, now a top network penetration tester and security engineer. They discuss cybersecurity news on the weekly show.
Special Agent and Forensic Examiner (Former)
May 2005 – March 2014
“And if it wasn’t for sale on Silk Road, you could ask for it and sellers would say, ‘I can get my hands on that. This is what I want for it.’ It was literally a bazaar for drug sales.”— Former Agent Chris Tarbell
The following are links to articles about the Silk Road investigation code-named Operation Onion Peeler:
CNET – 10/2/2013: FBI seizes online drug marketplace Silk Road, outs owner in indictment
International Business Times – 10/3/2013: FBI’s Christopher Tarbell – The Elliot Ness of Cyberspace who Busted Silk Road
Irish Times – 10/3/2013: Online drug marketplace Silk Road shut down by FBI
New York USAO Press Release – 5/5/2015: Ross Ulbricht, the Creator and Owner of the Silk Road Website, Found Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court on All Counts
Wired Magazine – 4/2015: The Rise and Fall of Silk Road Part I
Wired Magazine – 4/2015: The Rise and Fall of Silk Road Part II
Listen to more FBI Retired Case File Review episodes featuring cybercrime here.