Darknet Market ‘Evolution’ Appears to be Exit-Scamming

Haven’t paid attention to darknet market stuff the past week or two but was notified this morning by a pingback that Evolution, the bitcoin-fueled online drug market, looks to have closed up and absconded with something like $12 million in user and vendor funds.

Via Qntra:

Just an hour prior to the site going offline, a former Evolution staff member by the name of NSWGreat informed his fellow users that Verto and Kimble, the site’s two owners, were exiting with all funds. NSWGreat posted:

I hate to the bearer of bad news, but I’ve been suspicious the past few days with withdrawals not working and admins usually are more forth coming in explaining to me why they’re slow but they weren’t this time. Just kept giving me time-frames

I have admin access to see parts of the back end, the admins are preparing to exit scam with all the funds. Not a single withdrawal has gone through in almost a week. Automatic withdrawals has been disabled which is only doing on rare occasions

I am so sorry, but Verto and Kimble have fucked us all. I have over $20,000 in escrow myself from sales.

I can’t fucking believe it, absolute scum. I am giving this warning to you all as soon as I possibly could of.

Confronted Kimble and Verto about it, they confirmed it and they’re doing it right now..

EDIT: Servers have gone down, including back up server for staff. I’m sorry for everyone’s loses, I’m gutted and speechless. I feel so betrayed.

EDIT2: Yes this is real, no this isn’t maintenance. No I can’t help anyone. Evolution can officially be put on the Wall of Shame.

I wish I could of done more, I hope you can forgive me for not noticing and speaking up earlier.

Back in December the synchronicity between the shutdown of Tor Carding Forum and the arrest of counterfeiter Willy Clock (who vended through TCF) caused me to ponder if TCF had been compromised by law enforcement. If so then Evolution would’ve been compromised just as deeply, since Verto ran both. So I’m not sure it’s an exit-scam we’re watching but wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Security Through Platform Inflexibility: GTA Online’s New Heists Are Broken

After a wait that spans as long as the game has been out, Rockstar finally released the Heists update for Grand Theft Auto Online. This comes after numerous delays shooting straight past specific release dates and breaking the hearts of people like me.

I’ve probably got a few hundred hours logged on the game so far. If it tells you anything, I bought GTA V and haven’t played a single minute of the single-player/story mode. I bought the game to play online, with friends, and do terrible terrible things to them and other players. Even friends know the fear of playing with me and suddenly seeing the blinking red light of a sticky bomb appear on their car or the ground beneath them, or the sudden violence of being sniped from invisibly far away.

Heists promised to up the ante for my friends and I partly because of another game we play: Payday 2. Payday’s a much less open world in which you commit robberies on banks, nightclubs and jewelry stores. In some ways it served as the Heist function we longed for deeply in GTA.

So imagine our delight once the GTA Heists Update dropped last week. And then imagine our horror as we realized how broken they are.

GTA heists are locked to a certain number of players; no more and no less. This is largely and somewhat understandably because the heists are scripted much more tightly than the open game. Payday heists give you multiple ways to accomplish each job; in GTA you have a single fairly linear path which it’s easy to stray off and fail.

The introductory GTA heist requires two players, a driver and a driller. I generally play with two other (totally great) guys, so we had to keep switching off to get the first one accomplished and unlock the rest. There’s no reason we could not have picked up a third member who, say, roamed around as a lookout or assisted in controlling the hostages in the bank. Hell, the third guy could’ve entered the vault and rubbed my feet while I drilled into a safety deposit box. But nope. Two only.

Having finished that heist three times over (so each of us unlocked heists) we approached the wider GTA heist ecosystem cautiously optimistic. Maybe the intro heist was a one-off, arbitrarily restricted for some reason we couldn’t see. That optimism turned to quiet, awkward loathing. Upon entering the next heist setup – Prison Break – we found that it required four players. Being only three, we began to invite people we didn’t know into the game lobby to play with us.

And things broke down.

Prior to playing the heists and out in the open world I had received an inordinate amount of invites to the games of strangers. I put this up to the newness of heists and everyone playing them, excited and hoping for some help. My ingame phone (where game invites are stored) started showing half a dozen, then a dozen invites. Odd and a little annoying since they pop up on screen when you receive an invite, but whatever. Then they kept coming. And often from the same players. Over the evening I had several instances where the same player would repeatedly spam an invite to his heist EVERY TEN SECONDS.

After sitting in our own heist lobby for five minutes with no one accepting invites the true monster of GTA heists finally appeared on camera, so to speak. Heists are thoroughly broken because those that’ve already done a particular heist don’t want to do it again immediately and unless you specifically have three other friends to play with you are dependent upon the good will of a stranger to join your session.

We finally hooked up with a stranger and completed the second heist, and I’ll admit this: GTA heists are damn fun and, while displaying a linearity that betrays the open world of the larger game, well designed. I want to play them. I want to play them badly. But I couldn’t. Three more times we attempted to do a new heist and were foiled because we did not have a fourth player and no one would accept an invite.

So we’re back to a nearly pre-heists GTA. Between server problems, player count inflexibility and the fact that other players aren’t incentivized to join and help out others we are left adrift. We are left, the three of us, staring longingly at the heist lobby hoping someone, ANYONE, joins our game.

For now the institutions of Los Santos seem largely safe from our nigh-unstoppable three man crew.

SanDisk’s Wireless USB Drive Makes Me Sad

As one of the many hapless individuals stuck with a small-capacity iPhone, I’m always on the lookout for ways to extend its size and usefulness. Complicating this process is the fact that I’m hopelessly addicted to information. I crave it day and night, especially in audiobook and podcast form. So you can imagine my chagrin at being stuck with an 8GB iPhone.

I’ve been tied into the Apple ecosystem for a long time, often as an early adopter. Within relatively short order I’ve sported a first-gen iPod Nano and Touch, as well as a first-gen iPad purchased within a month of them coming on the market (my luck extends only so far, though, as I’ve never had the scratch for a Mac). The overwhelming majority of my music came straight through iTunes. I slogged through edu institution podcasts before iTunes U was a thing and then raided iTunes U on a weekly basis once it was. So, yeah. The platform works for me.

I spent years with Android phones, though. Didn’t have the money for an iPhone for a long time (I stuck primarily to prepaid carriers and would’ve had to shell out $600 up front for one). So for a long time I carried my Android phone and my 32GB second-gen iPod Touch.

Life got even better for a while. I worked a good job, made good money and decided to take the plunge back into wireless contracts so I could grab an iPhone; my first, a 5C 16GB “free” on contract. I immediately found the size constraining but made do for months on end shuffling things around and keeping a minimum of apps on the phone.

Life got worse. In December I lost my job of ten years and found it necessary to, embarrassingly enough, jump on my father’s wireless plan. But not to fear! We could get iPhones.

I ended up with a 5C, 8GB. I’ll spare you the details and just emphasize here that there is no way this device can meet my demands. Which is not its fault; and I’m not really complaining here. I’m damn happy to have a phone at all. But realities being what they are, I had to find a way around all this crap that didn’t involve carrying around 2-3 devices.

The SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive entered my consciousness early this year with vague promises to cure my phone storage woes. “Stream music and videos straight from the device! Use on the go without a network around! Augment your phone or tablet with up to 64GB of extra storage!” And yes. I should’ve known better. But this seemed like a tailor-made answer to many of my problems. For some it was.

The Connect comes in two models: a 32GB model or 64GB model. Really, they’re USB/wireless chassis for Micro SD cards, but with an important distinction: the 32 only supports FAT32 formatting (you’ll see why this is a problem in a minute). The Connect also sports two modes: one where it broadcasts its own wifi network and you connect directly, or another mode in which you set it up to connect to a nearby wifi network so that you can maintain your mobile device’s connection to the internet while still accessing the Connect. The two different modes and the multiple connections they can service simultaneously are pretty neat.

Problems appeared as soon as I began to set the device up. The first? The Sandisk Connect’s default mode of operation is to broadcast an unprotected wireless network through which you must connect, via a mobile app, to set the device up. There is no way to set up the drive through a physical connection, no attempt at a unique generated key printed on the device or even a default password. Just an open wifi network until you work your way through the setup and reboot the damn thing into broadcasting a password-protected network instead.

The second problem is the app. Apps are available on iOS and Android, and both appear to be relatively buggy. The iOS app was worse, often inexplicably losing connection to the drive in either direct or indirect mode. This occurred over two different iPhone 5Cs, an iPad Mini, a Nexus 7 and a prepaid Android 4.4 phone whose make and model I’m forgetting at the moment. But was much more pronounced on iOS. The iOS app occasionally crashed or failed to see any drives, or simply failed to navigate or load folders on the drives. Manually killing and restarting the app often fixed these problems, but that’s no real fix at all.

The third problem hit me where it hurts. As stated above, these are simply chassis for Micro SD cards, so I grabbed a SanDisk 64GB microsd and put it into the lesser M model. No dice: it wasn’t formatted FAT32. So I format the card, through a whole lot of data on and everything’s going swimmingly. I now have *two* 64GB Connect drives. Wanting to see how one of SanDisk’s major selling points worked, photo transfers from phones, I began the (relatively easy) process of uploading saved iOS photos to the drive Connect. Here’s the problem: formatting microsd cards over 32GB as FAT32 can lead to data problems. So when I tried to download the photos *from* the Connect, I began getting significant errors. I was able to salvage 20 out of 132 transferred pictures. Admittedly I was pushing the boundaries of the lesser model, but if one push merits unrecoverable data…

The fourth problem occurred when I engaged with the music/audio functions of the Connect. On iOS this requires playing through the Connect app rather than the native Music app. I often go to sleep listening to audiobooks of books I’ve previously read so I set my iPhone up to stream one off the Connect, locked the screen and laid back. Some time later silence prematurely descended and I realized the book had stopped. Perplexed, I checked my iPhone and realized that the wireless connection had quit and the Connect app only played until the end of the cached file rather than continuing to the next track. Confirmed in a conversation with a SanDisk rep the next morning: once you lock the device it will only play until the end of the file. Streaming is not maintained despite a number of apps (think Pandora or other radio) having figured this out long ago.

SanDisk has known about this problem for several years, as the message board postings I’ve seen go back that far. And apparently have no plans to fix it.

So, okay. I can download whatever book I want to listen to that night *into* the Connect app on my phone instead. It’ll take up room and is a little more cumbersome but it means one less device (an audiobook-heavy one) to lug around. This worked only passingly because the SanDisk Connect app is the most spartan app I’ve seen since “Yo.” You can download files to your phone or tablet, even create folders and subfolders. But you can’t arrange tracks or set up playlists at all. The files are simply *there.* And given that more than a few times the app arranged tracks in an odd order, that meant that multi-track listening was out unless the order was inherently correct OR I just wanted to listen on shuffle. There’s no way to port tracks to the native iOS Music app from Connect, so you’re stuck dealing with their simple no-frills player and half-cocked file organization structure.

Not surprisingly, Android did not have this problem. Once you’ve downloaded an audio file into the Connect app from the wireless drive, Android indexes it and automatically adds it to the native Android music app. This approaches pretty passable functionality and had my experience only been on Android it would be much more glowing.

Where the Connect did help significantly was my podcast habit. I’m subscribed to about forty podcasts at this point and try to listen to at least one or two a day. An 8GB iPhone interferes mightily with that as I regularly have less than 1GB of space left at any given moment. What I’ve found is that I can download all my podcasts via iTunes on my PC and simply transfer the Podcasts folder to the Connect. From there I download a few a day directly to the phone and play through the (ugh) SanDisk app. But the workflow does make the process simpler.

Management of other file types felt surprisingly better. Grabbing a PDF from the Connect and opening it in any app of my choice worked well, as did ebooks, word processing files and comic book files. I could throw my digital/non-DRM comic book collection on the Connect in its entirety and while on the go decide to read any of them within about a minute.

You can access it by way of computers, too. Unfortunately SanDisk has failed to provide any kind of app to support the Connect for computers so you’re stuck accessing it through a slightly convoluted web browser mode that only allows you to browse the drive and download. No uploading at all. Which seems…pretty shortsighted.

I had such high hopes for the SanDisk Connect Wireless USB Drive. It could have supercharged my iPhone like nothing else I’ve found, in so many ways. But after engaging with it deeply, dealing with streaming and playback issues, app and wireless flakyness and even some inherent limitations of iOS I find it to be seriously hampered.

If it worked on iOS like it worked on Android: B

If streaming worked like the marketing suggested: a goddamn A

Half a grade taken off for:
-iOS being hampered but that not acknowledged in the least in marketing material
-App unreliability
-Inability to do much wirelessly from PC
-Broadcasting unprotected by default!

Full grade taken off for:
-No background streaming
-The lack of thought, design and operability in the mobile apps
-SanDisk’s lackluster response to the streaming issue

Full grade GIVEN for:
-how easy it makes my podcast habit, given the storage-handicapped iPhone
-Good for dealing with non-audio/video files such as PDFs, digital comics

Which leaves what could have been a remarkable, beautiful device like the SanDisk Wireless Connect USB drive with a grade of: D.

I know I expect a lot. And I push things harder than they’re meant. But I expect a hell of a lot more than that, SanDisk.