How NSA cyber-attacks on the dark underbelly of the web led to the arrest of ‘the largest child porn facilitator on the planet’ and have online pedophile communities running scared

Published August 9, 2013 by JS2

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  • Attack on anonymous Dark Web online community tracked back to NSA contractor in Virginia
  • Pedophile message boards that once operated with impunity are now going offline
  • Operation began with arrest of Eric Marques in Ireland
  • Marques is accused of running Freedom Hosting, which allowed numerous pedophile forums to operate

The U.S. federal government appears to have infiltrated the shady underbelly of the Internet – a shadowy series of heavily-encrypted, secretive sites called the ‘Dark Web’ that are home to legions of child pornographers, money launderers and drug dealers. 

The operation, tracked back to a contractor for the National Security Agency, began with the arrest last week of Irishman Eric Eoin Marques, who the FBI has called ‘the biggest facilitator of child pornography on the plant.’

Marques is accused of running Freedom Hosting, a web hosting service that operates on the anonymous Tor network. Forums on Freedom Hosting allegedly allowed pedophiles to anonymously share horrific child pornography and trade tips on how to sexually abuse children without getting caught.

Eric Eoin Marques appeared in court this week as an Irish court weighed whether to extradite him to the United States

Marques is accused of running Freedom Hosting, which allowed child pornography forums to operate with impunity

Tor is an encrypted network of sites not easily accessed by average internet users. It uses numerous layers of security and encryption to render users anonymous online.

Normally, file sharing and internet browsing activity can be tracked by law enforcement through each user’s unique IP address that can be traced back to an individual computer. The Tor network on the Dark Web hides the IP address and the activity of the user. 

The FBI has requested that Marques, 28, be extradited to the United States to stand trial.

But the operation didn’t end there. 

The Daily Dot reports that the day after Marques was arrested, hackers uploaded malicious code to Freedom Hosting’s servers. The code was designed to attack the browsers of anyone who accessed the anonymous sites. 

It reportedly collected internet browser data and surfing history, which could help identify the location of users of the anonymous site.

Head in hands: A judge ordered the 28-year-old Irishman held without bail while it is decided whether he should be sent to the U.S. for prosecution

Head in hands: A judge ordered the 28-year-old Irishman held without bail while it is decided whether he should be sent to the U.S. for prosecution

One of the sites that operates on the Dark Web is Silk Road, a black market eBay that sells drugs, stolen identities and even weapons

One of the sites that operates on the Dark Web is Silk Road, a black market eBay that sells drugs, stolen identities and even weapons

Tech savvy members of the Dark Web community tracked the attack back to Science Applications International Corp. – a Virginia-based contractor for the NSA. 

As a result of the attack, pedophiles who had previously trafficked sickening images of child sexual abuse with impunity because the Dark Web offered anonymity, realized that their identities could be compromised. 

Pedophile message boards that were once bustling with activity suddenly went dark. 

The administrator of the 4Pedo forum, which operates on the Dark Web, posted a warning to users before he took the forum offline: ‘ALL BOARDS HAVE BEEN DELETED TO PROTECT YOU! IF THE BOARDS COME BACK UP, IT IS NOT ME RUNNING THE SITE ANYMORE!’

Numerous other pedophile sites on the Dark Web that use Tor encryption have gone offline, as well. 

Child pornographers aren’t the only ones that operate in the shadowy, anonymous reaches of the Internet. 

The Silk Road, an eBay for the black market, resides there as well. 

Users can by any number of illegal things on the site – from drugs to stolen identities to illegal weapons and even explosives. 

Users fear they could be the next target of the U.S. government attack.

Daily Mail online

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