164 - The FBI Agent Who Took Down the Silk Road with Chris Tarbell

Chris Tarbell is a former FBI Agent specializing in cyber investigations.
Mar 23, 2023

Inside the episode

While at the FBI, Chris led some of the most high-profile cybercrime investigations in the world, including the arrest of members of the hacker group LulzSec, as well as the founder of the Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, which resulted in the largest seizure of bitcoins to date.

Rarely do we have the opportunity to pick the brain of a cybercop, but this was our opportunity to see through the eyes of the FBI agent who took down the Silk Road in the largest crypto seizure ever recorded.

In today’s episode, Chris shares the story of crypto, Ross Ulbricht, and the Silk Road as told by the FBI agent who took it down. We also dig into the eternal cat-and-mouse game between Cybercriminals and Cyberpolice, how to protect yourself from people who want to take your crypto, and if the FBI wants your private keys, how they get them.



0:00 Intro

9:10  Bitcoin Predictions

10:08 FBI’s Crypto Impression

11:15 Chris’s Crypto Aha Moment

16:11 FBI’s Institutional Knowledge

17:00 Silk Road Story

21:25 FBI Divisions

27:14 Growth of the Silk Road

30:39 Purchasing on the Silk Road

31:36 Why End the Silk Road?

34:17 Ross Ulbricht

37:38 Timeline of the Investigation

39:00  Dread Pirate Roberts

42:20 Ross Ulbricht as a Martyr

43:27 What Ross Was Charged With?

44:05 Chris’s Thoughts on Ross?

46:30 Sabu vs. Ross

48:05 Other Charges

50:53 Silk Road Principles

52:45 Silk Road Bitcoin Vault

54:53 Seizing the Laptop

56:04 The Black Marketplace Wave

57:32 FBI Adapting

1:00:52 Cyber Police

1:03:26 What Chris Sees in Crypto

1:06:30 Bursting the Crypto Utopia

1:10:59 Crypto Tools

1:12:11 Steelmanning the Crypto Case

1:15:39 Tornado Cash

1:17:58 Hive Ransomware

1:21:05 Profile of a Hacker

1:22:21 The New Frontier of Ransomware

1:22:38 Nationstate Actors

1:25:04 Honeypots for Hackers

1:27:49 How to Protect Yourself

1:32:06 Prioritizing Targets

1:36:00 zkProofs & Privatization

1:39:32 Missing Silk Road Bitcoin Story

1:43:46 Chris’s Podcast

1:45:10 Closing & Disclaimers


Hacker and the Fed




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