On December 4th, 2016 Lyn Ulbricht, the mother of Ross Ulbricht, the man convicted of running the Silk Road, helped host the Free-Ross-A-Thon, a fundraiser for Ross’ legal defense fund. Ross Ulbricht is currently appealing the life sentence that was handed down by a federal court. The cost of producing the appeal documents in Ross’ case alone cost $14,000, and the Ulbricht family and Ross’ supporters were hoping to raise money to cover the costs of appealing the sentence. The Free-Ross-A-Thon did well, exceeding the expectations for the fundraiser, raising $23,500, which was matched by Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver, bringing the total raised to $47,000. Cody Wilson, founder of DefenseDistributed, donated $5,000 through his non-profit organization to defend political prisoners, the American Black Cross. Less than a month after the successful fundraiser, the Bitcoin and PayPal accounts, as well as e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and the Twitter account for Free Ross were all hacked.
— Roger Ver (@rogerkver) December 31, 2016
Early in the morning of December 31st the Free Ross Facebook account posted a message about the hack and asked supporters to stop sending donations to the Bitcoin and PayPal accounts until further notice. Not all of Ross’ supporters got the message though, as over 1.1 BTC has been sent to the Free Ross Bitcoin account since the notice of the hack was posted on Facebook and on reddit. A look at the blockchain shows that not long before the notice of the hack was posted, 24.7 BTC was transferred out of the Free Ross Bitcoin account. A day before that transfer, on December 29th, 20.4 BTC was transferred out in two different transfers.
The notice posted on the Free Ross Facebook page stated, “Friends, we are sad to inform you that we have been a target of a terrible hack. Please do not make any donations to Free Ross at this time. Unfortunately the Free Ross email addresses, phone numbers, twitter account, paypal account, and bitcoin accounts have all been compromised. There aren’t many details at this time but updates will be provided once the dust clears. A new donation address will likely be established as well – please do not donate to anyone accepting money on behalf of Ross at this time. Please keep Ross and in your thoughts this New Years Eve.
We will update you as soon as we have more information.” The Facebook post ended with a link to a reddit post on /r/btc/ by Roger Ver that repeated a warning about the hack, and notified people to not send any donations until further notice.
“Hackers that prey upon those who are already dealing with so much heartache deserve all of our contempt,” Roger Ver commented on the hack through his Twitter account. “This is a prime example of why SMS based 2FA isn’t much better than having no 2FA at all,” Ver said on a comment to his reddit post, and about the hacker said, “I hope you burn in hell.” Ver revealed on reddit that the hacker had messaged him through Twitter posing as Lyn Ulbricht, and using broken English, asked for a Bitcoin loan. Other people have claimed the hacked Free Ross Twitter account sent direct messages asking for Bitcoin donations to fund a Free Ross New Years party. On Tuesday January 3rd the Free Ross group sent out an e-mail to supporters alerting supporters that their gmail was compromised and that the hackers had been posing as them and soliciting money. On January 3rd, the Free Ross Facebook page posted that they had been able to get Google to help them regain control of their gmail account.
“We were able to secure all the funds,” Lyn Ulbricht said when asked if the hacker had made off with their funds. Regarding the transfers of Bitcoin out of the Free Ross account, Lyn said, “These transfers were made by us in an attempt to secure our funds. We were successful, and all the funds are secure,” and added that the “PayPal is not hacked and the account is secure. It is safe to donate there.” No altcoin accounts associated with the Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense Fund were hacked. They are hoping to be able to continue using their current Bitcoin address for future donations, “However the account has been frozen, so we are asking that bitcoin donations are held off until we can regain access to the account.”
“We are continuing our battle for Ross having learned many lessons over the last several days. Our security has been overhauled under the advisement of experts and we have become savvier about hacking techniques ourselves. You can be sure that we will take the strongest so that all the funds donated will be protected and go to help free Ross,” Lyn said, adding that, “We head into the new year with hope and gratitude for all of the wonderful, generous people who have stepped up to help us defend Ross and the bigger issues at stake in his case.”
Another Free-Ross-A-Thon may be held again in 2017. “We called it the first Free Ross-A-Thon, so another is a possibility. It was such a success, not only financially but for raising awareness about many issues and bringing together various parts of the community. Ross’ case impacts so many areas: the drug war; privacy; crypto currency; mass incarceration; over criminalization; constitutional violations,” Lyn Ulbricht said.
Donations to Ross Ulbricht’s commissary account can still be made through the Western Union website by clicking on “Sending money to an inmate.” and send it to the facility Federal Bureau of Prisons, Ross Ulbricht, #18870-111 in the required format.