Dread Admin's Deadman's Switch Activated

A mere week after Dread (the largest Tor forum) went down for maintenance, its admin, HugBunter, triggered the site’s deadman switch, illustrating that he no longer had control of the forum.

Dread Admin's Deadman's Switch Activated

A mere week after Dread (the largest Tor forum) went down for maintenance, its admin, HugBunter, triggered the site’s deadman switch, illustrating that he no longer had control of the forum.

 

At the time of this writing, the site has been offline for 10 days, and is not allowing users to log in. To make matters worse, HugBunter is missing, and has not given any information as to his whereabouts. HugBunter had disappeared in the past for, according to him, “health reasons” or “equipment malfunctions.” Nonetheless, in those instances, he had communicated with a member of Dread’s staff to inform them of what was happening.

 

This time around, a Dread staffer substantiated that they had not heard from HugBunter in three days, leading to concerns that he may either be dead or may have been arrested by law enforcement.  

 

Initially, HugBunter had posted an announcement on the front page that said he was “performing upgrades” to the site:

dread upgrades

The stated purpose of these “upgrades” was to “...provide increased stability” and “reduce a whole lot of spam and phishing.” Subsequently, HugBunter logged into his private Jabber account for a few days, and then logged back out; he did so again several times before logging out “for good.”

 

On September 27, one of the other staff members, Paris, posted that HugBunter’s absence, or something correlating with it, had triggered the deadman switch. At this time the announcement on the front page switched to this one:

Dread deadman switch

The full text of the message is as follows (also available on DarknetLive):

HugBunter’s deadman has been switched. It has been three full days without any contact when in all purposes the site update should have been pushed already. Hug does disappear at times and recently he disappeared for just over a day do to personal problems. All I can hope is he is alive and well. Not harmed, captured, or dead.

However we must assume the worse [sic] in this case. If something happened and he is alive he will be able to validate himself with a signed PGP message and some internal information.

If he does not return in one weeks time from his message all server’s content will be removed and the source code for dread will be released to the open public. In it’s current state (without the upgrades that HugBunter was supposed to push three days ago) the site would be full of spam and phishing in no time. On the final days before dread’s maintenance system was turned on, hours of time per day was spent removing content and accounts spamming the forum. It was unusable.

This downtime was only supposed to be a few days at most to get the final touches to the codebase upgrade done without needing to handle all the spam at the same time. While HugBunter at times does disappear for days he generally doesn’t do it when dread is down and can’t be brought back up. I just hope he is alive.

There might be a simple explanation for this (health problems for example) but until that time we must assume the worse [sic].

As Paris points out, while HugBunter has gone offline in the past, he has usually communicated with one of the Dread staff members about this, which he did not do in this case. While none of these messages fully corroborate the theories as to what has become of HugBunter, others, such as the admin of dark.fail, have suggested that users should assume the worst. An announcement on that site reads as follows:

ALERT: Dread is offline, Hugbunter is missing. Assume Dread and its team are compromised. Rotate all passwords you may have used there immediately. Assume all unencrypted private messages you sent have been compromised. Re-evaluate your OPSEC.

If, as speculated, HugBunter and Dread have been compromised, users will have to find another similar forum for their darknet market-related conversations. At the time of this writing, other popular forums that are still online include The Hub, Darknet Avengers, Deep Talk, and several others. While these have very different formats from Dread, it seems as if they are the next best option if the site has indeed been shut down.