Hacker, mad man, homophobe, troll—a few weeks ago, after a six month investigation by the FBI and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Randall Charles Tucker was arrested and charged with felony computer tampering.
When we spoke to Mr. Tucker—also known as “Bitcoin Baron”—last month, he was on a roll, taking down small-town municipal websites and sticking it to police officers, even when he was totally off-base with his accusations. At the time, we didn’t know the extent of his activities. But then, neither did the FBI.
Chat transcripts, videos, photos and information obtained by the New York Observer reveal that Bitcoin Baron wasn’t just a sloppy hacker. He was a violent collector of child pornography and, quite possibly, mentally ill—but we’ll get to that part later. So how did he evade capture until someone simply tweeted out his name?
Let’s begin in October, 2014…
The long road to catching the Internet’s most inept criminal
The Bitcoin Baron saga started when an operation by hacker group Anonymous, #OpHongKong, sent a video to D.C.-based video news site News2Share on October 8th, 2014. When it blew up and caught over 300,000 views, News2Share’s Ford Fischer received an email from Bitcoin Baron.
On October 8th, Bitcoin Baron emailed Mr. Fischer from an email address called “email@example.com”—at this point going by aliases like “ZeusAres” and “Key Last.” He wanted Mr. Fischer to upload a video of his, which was labeled “Anonymous,” but clearly of inferior quality.
“Presumably, his feeling was, ‘If these guys put up my video, it will magically become viral as well,'” Mr. Fischer told the Observer, “But that’s not obviously going to be the case if it’s shit.”
At first, Mr. Fischer didn’t even see the email. In only a few hours, Bitcoin Baron issued a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on News2Share, taking down the site for not complying immediately with his demand. Mr. Fischer ended up uploading the site just to make the problem go away. It received less than 500 views.
Mr. Fischer didn’t hear from Bitcoin Baron again for another two months, when he popped up again with the “Bitcoin Baron” alias and YouTube channel. The channel is covered with various videos: threats against government agencies, terrible raps, and records of rudimentary DDoS attacks—many of the videos have been taken down in the past few months, without explanation. The Baron continued threatening News2Share, but by then moved on to issuing threats against the site Counter Current News.
From then on, he started ramping up his activity. With March 2015 being his period of peak activity, Bitcoin Baron took on the following projects:
- Demanded 100 bitcoins from the city of Moore, Oklahoma to demand justice for a man who died in police custody.
- Downed a number of IRC chat rooms for other hacktivists and gaming groups.
- Attacked the website of a children’s hospital.
- Took down a municipal site in Texas to demand a local police officer be put in jail. The officer had already been jailed one year prior to the threat.
- Downed a number of Tor hidden services sites that hosted child pornography (we’ll get to that later).
Bitcoin Baron was long-time player of Sherwood Dungeon, a free online game where he fell in with a gaming group called “)T(“. While he was attacking municipalities and threatening reporters, he was in a Skype group where he would gloat and attempt to shock the other members of the chat—the Observer obtained these chat transcripts.
After his attack on the City of Madison, for example, he complained that the first news reporters misattributed his attack to Anonymous—a common mistake among general assignment reporters who don’t know anything about hacktivism. From the chat transcripts in his gaming community:
[3/10/2015 11:37:49 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: AnonFags keep stealing mycredit
[3/10/2015 11:37:54 AM] Måns: again?
[3/10/2015 11:37:58 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: Not the bank one
[3/10/2015 11:38:00 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: but the previous one
[3/10/2015 11:38:05 AM] Måns: ah
[3/10/2015 11:38:10 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: ‘Anonymous’ says it’s responsible for cyberattack on City of Madison
[3/10/2015 11:38:16 AM] Måns: xd
[3/10/2015 11:38:20 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: fucking queers
[3/10/2015 11:38:41 AM] Måns: anonymous wants the D
[3/10/2015 11:38:49 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: ikr
[3/10/2015 11:40:02 AM] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: Gonna threaten this news article bitches
In public, he maintained a Twitter account and YouTube channel to promote his work, and reached out to the press repeatedly to draw more attention to his work. According to Arizona DPS and the FBI, a tweet was sent publicly—and accurately—that claimed Bitcoin Baron’s name was Randy Tucker and that he had “no skill.”
He was arrested the same day.
Hacker without a cause
When we spoke to Bitcoin Baron last month, he positioned himself as a crusader against police injustice, municipal mismanagement and the corrupt, going after “anything [he could] find really that’s got something to do with innocent citizens in the crosshairs of police.”
Instead, Bitcoin Baron—like many hacktivists whose placebo politics lead them from one hot cause to another—really just wanted to do damage. When a man died in police custody in Moore, Oklahoma, Bitcoin Baron took down the city’s municipal website with a ransom of 100 bitcoins. Regardless of the fact that $28,000—the amount 100 bitcoin was worth at the time—is an absurd ransom for a small-town website, Bitcoin Baron was unable to articulate exactly how paying him was supposed to right any wrongs.
He didn’t, of course, get his money.
He attacked municipalities, gaming services, hospitals, web hosts and other hacking groups as his targets and goals shifted. And regardless of his hatred of Anonymous, he also casually participated in #OpSeaWorld, an Anonymous operation largely inspired by the documentary Blackfish, which exposed the widespread kidnap and abuse of killer whales.
Bitcoin Baron, who in his spare time is the worst rapper on the Internet—let’s call him the Bitcoin Baron of the rap game—even made the following rap video in honor of the op:
But one of the most inexplicable motifs in Bitcoin Baron’s shenanigans is his relationship to child pornography. A member of )T( who goes by “Andreas” said that Bitcoin Baron “likes child porn a lot,” and Bitcoin Baron has gleeful collected it, though there are currently no charges against him for possessing it.
[3/12/2015 12:27:53 PM] �ëV�ÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: oh fuck yes
[3/12/2015 12:27:55 PM] �ëV�ÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: girls hub is back
[3/12/2015 12:28:03 PM] �ëV�ÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: moar CP = fun
On March 12th, Bitcoin Baron attacked the website for the Shriners Hospitals for Children organization. People who chatted with Bitcoin Baron claim that the site for the children’s hospital was not just taken down, but defaced with child pornography—the Shriner’s Hospital couldn’t be reached for comment.
[3/12/2015 8:04:49 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: Who wants to see thechildrens hospital getting DDoSed?
[3/12/2015 8:05:29 PM] Van: dont do it devilz
[3/12/2015 8:05:37 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: already am
[3/12/2015 8:05:38 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: LOL
[3/12/2015 8:05:38 PM] Van: thats so wrong
[3/12/2015 8:05:41 PM] Van: stop
[3/12/2015 8:05:49 PM] – intrusi0n: lol
[3/12/2015 8:05:55 PM] Van: destroying a place that helps children isreally cold blooded
[3/12/2015 8:06:05 PM] Van: how could you do that
[3/12/2015 8:06:17 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: I’m heartless
[3/12/2015 8:10:43 PM] Kozy: don’t do it
[3/12/2015 8:10:48 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron:https://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/
“The same thing was the case to our chat,” Andreas said. “He attempted to spam it with CP, and as no admins were
on at the time, it was a war to keep changing it back until he got bored.”
For many in Bitcoin Baron’s tiny online community, that was the moment they were totally unable to go on tolerating him, and he was soon banned.
Within the week, Bitcoin Baron started collaborating with @TorReaper, an Anon who takes down sites hosted on Tor’s hidden services network—in this case, child pornography sites, including Girls Hub, the site he’d celebrated in private chats:
By the end of March, the Baron had latched onto the #OpDeathEaters campaign, an ongoing Anonymous operation convinced that there is an international pedosadist ring permeating Western oligarchy—obviously a discussion for another time.
This isn’t to say that Bitcoin Baron is, necessarily, a pedophile. Rather, child porn is another tool in the outreach and outrage kit. Child porn is an expedient, incendiary way to wreak havoc and lash out.
Madness and Ineptitude
If his muted rap lyrics are to be believed, he spent two weeks in a “mental hospital” after he was arrested for aggravated assault for stabbing his father. And just a couple of days before the first time we spoke to him, Bitcoin Baron went into his Skype chat and threatened to kill himself, bragging to the chat room and seeking shock and validation:
[11/03/15 20.24.57] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: 6 pills down
[11/03/15 20.25.06] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: wanna watch?
[11/03/15 20.25.10] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: xD
[11/03/15 20.26.15] ∆: Sure
[11/03/15 20.26.18] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: LOL
[11/03/15 20.26.20] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: kk hold on
[11/03/15 20.26.40] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: you think im bsing right?
[11/03/15 20.26.45] ∆: Not really
[11/03/15 20.26.47] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: lmao
[11/03/15 20.26.53] ∆: a bit maybe since a lot of people have faked
[11/03/15 20.26.59] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: lol well im trying to do it
[11/03/15 20.27.09] ∆: show it then
At this point, Bitcoin Baron turned on his video to show everyone the pills he was downing. One friend pulled up Snapchat and recorded the apparent suicide attempt and sent it to another member of the Skype group:
[11/03/15 20.30.03] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: my eyes are watering
[11/03/15 20.30.04] ∆: don’t throw up big boy
[11/03/15 20.30.15] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: this is fucked up shit
[11/03/15 20.30.21] ∆: so stop doing it
Bitcoin Baron wasn’t a hacker mastermind, either. He had a functional understanding of how to use encryption tools and onion routing, which anyone could learn in an afternoon from a handful of tutorials on YouTube. Mr. Fischer suspects that the tools he used to take down various websites were all of the plug-and-play variety. All he needed to perform the DDoS was to find a tool, plug in a URL, and watch the site go down.
Really, there isn’t a worthwhile skill or capability in Bitcoin Baron’s tool belt. The tool he used to make his videos is Camtasia, a laughably rudimentary video capture tool. His videos, which are mostly just still images with audio, instead of being a single image frame seem to be a rolling screen recording of a still image on his desktop—in one previously public video, you can actually see the mouse moving across the screen.
So how did this potentially insane, technically inept pseudo-hacker cause so much damage? Because causing damage has become so easy. Too often, we believe that because so many people do not cause damage on the Internet, it is because they are unable. Everything from sophisticated breaches to spamming and trolling on social media have become easier because as life has become more digital, both the tools of attack and the vulnerability to those attacks are in everyone’s hands.
“If you have distributed powers of defense, but also distributed powers of offense, you’re in a situation where you are much more secure on average, but if somebody really wanted to get you, they can do really bad things,” Benjamin Wittes, co-author of The Future of Violence, told the Observer last month. “So you’re simultaneously more and less secure, depending on who you are and who your enemies are.”
“He was trying to make it seem like part of some network the whole time,” Mr. Fischer said. “It seemed like he wanted to have a sense of belonging. It makes sense that he’s not a socially adaptive young man, and it seems like he was taking that out on the Internet.”