The Switchboard: Silk Road is back, complete with another Dread Pirate Roberts

November 7, 2013

This cocaine, like the murder Ulbricht allegedly got for his $80,000, isn't real. (Photo by Valerie Everett)

Published every weekday morning, The Switchboard highlights five tech stories you need to read.

Silk Road is resurrected with a new Dread Pirate Roberts. The online drug marketplace that was busted by federal authorities in October has now been relaunched, CNET reports. "Throughout the day, Dread Pirate Roberts continued to tweet about the site's traffic and methodology. 'Over 1,100 per second now coming to #SilkRoad" Dread Pirate Roberts wrote, along with "#SilkRoad while under my watch will never harm a soul. If we did, then we are no better than the thugs on the street.'"

CIA is said to pay AT&T for call data. The CIA pays one of the nation's largest telecom operators $10 million a year for access to the company's phone records, the New York Times reports. This is on top of any court orders or other judicial processes that the agency might use to request data from AT&T. "Most of the call logs provided by AT&T involve foreign-to-foreign calls, but when the company produces records of international calls with one end in the United States, it does not disclose the identity of the Americans and “masks” several digits of their phone numbers, the officials said."

U.S. weighs proposal to end dual leadership role at NSA, Cyber Command. As Gen. Keith Alexander prepares to make an exit, the White House is considering splitting his position among two people — and possibly making the next NSA head a civilian. As the Post's Ellen Nakashima reports: "National Security Council officials are scheduled to meet soon to discuss the issue of separating the leadership of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, a shift that some officials say would help avoid an undue concentration of power in one individual and separate entities with two fundamentally different missions: spying and conducting military attacks."

Porn trolls slammed again: Minnesota judge calls in the feds on Prenda. Prenda Law has been ordered by a Minnesota court to pay back the money it won from defendants who settled with the copyright troll in that jursidiction, according to Ars Technica's Joe Mullin. "Today's order minces no words in condemning Prenda or Steele, whom the judge practically accuses of lying under oath. In the Sept. 30 hearing, Steele said that Cooper gave permission to Mark Lutz—the only acknowledged owner of AF Holdings—to sign his name. This supposedly happened after Steele introduced the two by telephone. But that didn't sound right to US District Judge Franklin Noel."

J. Craig Venter sequenced the human genome. Now he wants to convert DNA into a digital signal.In an interview with Wired, J. Craig Venter explains how synthesized DNA will soon become digitally transmittable — making it possible to issue copies of the same genetic product someplace else. "Thanks to genetic engineering, and now the field of synthetic biology, we can manipulate DNA to an unprecedented extent, just as we can edit software in a computer. We can also transmit it as an electromagnetic wave at or near the speed of light and, via a "biological teleporter", use it to recreate proteins, viruses and living cells at another location, changing forever how we view life."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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Brian Fung · November 6, 2013