In the 2021 movie Silk Road, at around 19:23-19:26 into the film we can see Ross Ulbricht, the lead character, write a program on his laptop that uses curl. A few seconds we get a look at the screen as Ross types on the keyboard and explains to the female character who says I didn’t know you know how to code that he’s teaching himself to write code.
Let’s take a look at the code on the screen. This is PHP code using the well known PHP/CURL binding. The URL on the screen on line two has really bad contrast, but I believe this is what it says:
<?php $ch = curl_init("http://silkroadvb5pzir.onion"); $ch = curl_init(); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $url); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_PROXY, "http://127.0.0.1:9050/"); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_PROXYTYPE, 7); $output = curl_exec($ch); $curl_error = curl_error($ch); curl_cl
.onion is a TLD for websites on Tor so this seems legit as it a URL for this purpose could look like this. But then Ross confuses matters a little. He uses two
curl_init() calls, one that sets a URL and then again a call without a URL. He could just have removed line three and four. This doesn’t prohibit the code from working, it just wouldn’t have passed a review.
The code then sets a proxy to use for the transfer, specified as an HTTP URL which is a little odd since the proxy type he then sets on the line below is 7, the number corresponding to
CURLPROXY_SOCKS5_HOSTNAME – so not a HTTP proxy at all but a SOCKS5 proxy. The typical way you access Tor: as a SOCKS5 proxy to which you pass the host name, as opposed to resolving the host name locally.
The last line is incomplete but should ultimately be
curl_close($ch); to close the handle after use.
All in all a seemingly credible piece of code, especially if we consider it as a work in progress code. The minor mistakes would be soon be fixed.
Viktor Szakats spotted this and sent me the screenshot above. Thanks!
2 thoughts on “curl sighting: Silk Road”
The sad part about this is that one reason “frosty”, i.e. Ross Ulbricht, was caught was his post on stackoverflow:
@Peter: Oh, I did not know about that. Thanks for this tidbit! Curious how similar that stackoverflow question’s code sample is to the code seen in the movie…
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