An Irishman accused of being the ‘largest facilitator of child porn on the planet’ by the FBI could face extradition to America.
U.S. authorities want to extradite Eric Eoin Marques who they allege is involved in distributing graphic and violent images of child pornography, a court heard.
The 28-year-old appeared before the High Court in Ireland, after he was arrested on a Maryland warrant for four charges of distributing and promoting child pornography on the internet.
Mr Marques, from Dublin, appeared before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan yesterday due to an extradition request by the FBI, the Independent reported.
He was denied bail until the extradition request has been determined.
The images he is accused of distributing and promoting relate to distressing depictions of youngsters being raped or tortured.
Mr Marques, who has no previous convictions, has been identified as a ‘flight risk’ by gardai and the FBI.
The High Court heard that large payments had been trasnferred to accounts in Romania, and his computer’s brwsing history revealed that he had inquired about Russian visas.
Refusing bail, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he accepted the evidence that Mr Marques was a flight risk.
Mr Justice Gilligan remanded Mr Marques in custody, to a sitting of the High Court on next Thursday.
His arrest coincides with the disappearance of a vast number of ‘hidden services’ hosted on anonymizing encrypted network Tor.
The website is accessed via a programme called Tor which enables all members to remain anonymous online and uses an ‘onion’ system to make sure their IP address is always hidden from police.
Tor is free software and an open network that makes identifying the physical location of the computers operating the marketplace – or anyone visiting it – all but impossible.
It protects internet users against a form of network surveillance and state security known as traffic analysis.
They can be used for good – such as activists trapped in oppressive regimes – or bad, with drug dealers selling illegal substances without risk of getting caught.
Marques is alleged to be behind Freedom Hosting, a major hidden services hosting provider, Arstechnica reported.
Freedom Hosting was one of a number of hosting providers specializing in hidden services.
The business — which is in no way connected to the Tor Project — allegedly hosts child pornography sites, as well as sites that allowed pornography traffickers to post their links for distribution, Arstechnica reported.
Freedom Hosting was brought to the public’s attention in October 2011 after the hacking collective Anonymous shut down the largest host of such illegal material on the Web.
In a statement issued on the internet, Anonymous said that it had warned Freedom Hosting to take the sites down but the company failed to do so.
Anonymous hackers then disabled its servers and would continue to do so until the material was removed.
Its operation began on October 14 and targeted child porn on the ‘darknet’ – anonymised sites designed to protect users’ identities, which are invisible to normal web users.
Anonymous hackers detected the links to the pornography and removed them but they were up again within five minutes.
They then discovered that 95 per cent of the links were being hosted by Freedom Hosting and so shut down the firm’s servers.
Freedom Hosting switched to their backups but Anonymous closed them down again.
HOW USERS CAN HIDE BEHIND ANONYMOUS SOFTWARE
Tor is a popular internet anonymising tool which can be downloaded for free from the web.
It enables all members to remain anonymous online and uses an ‘onion’ system to make sure IP addresses – each computer has its own one – are always hidden from police.
It makes identifying the physical location of the computers using the software all but impossible.
Tor only protects users from being monitored on applications that are properly configured to send their Internet traffic through the programme unless individuals also use it as a browser instead of Google or Internet Explorer.
As well as protecting users from being tracked by police, it also means they are protected from network surveillance and state security known as traffic analysis.
This makes interference with the website difficult on morality grounds as it is used by activists trapped in countries with oppressive regimes to communicate without being tracked by governments.
Prime examples are human rights groups in China and Iran which would otherwise be censored or even persecuted for expressing their views.
A large proportion of Tor’s funding comes indirectly from the U.S. state department’s internet freedom budget.