The demise of Freedom Hosting in 2013 has a lot of “statistics” showing the most popular Tor Network activity is child abuse. While this has been under debate, with multiple “statistics” showing different from the other, it is highly unlikely that with all the other options and interests inside the network, that child pornography is the highest rated activity in the deep web.
There are several groups out to prove otherwise. Hans Guijt-Terre des Hommes, of the Netherlands recently set up a digital 10-year-old girl. The outcome of this was more than 20,000 people; the majority men, were contacting the virtual girl in order to solicit sexual activity. In 2015 there were many instances where unsuspecting pedophiles were caught in traps laid by various countries governments.
A British study conducted in early 2015 claimed that up to 80% of the darknet activity on TOR was related to child pornography. Greg Virgin, former NSA employee turned cyber security consultant is quoted as saying “It was an awful realization, discovering that there were tens of thousands of people who are not only trading child abuse images and videos, but also looking for tips, and actual children to exploit.” Greg now spends his days helping U.S. based child protection groups.
“We found sites where users openly advertise the age of the children they are interested in. The typical age range were girls 0 to 6 months, and boys being from 0 to 1 years old. The FBI has taken down multiple child abuse sites since 2013. Despite the efforts of the FBI and private hacking groups around the globe, it seems the demand for child pornography is only growing.
On average, the FBI figures there to be a new site promoting child sexual abuse every day, if not more. Once one site goes down, the demand is so great that the site is rapidly replaced. The new site is usually stronger and more secure than the last. This makes the job of shutting it down more difficult.
Recently Argo, the Queensland, Australia taskforce has finished its 10-month long operation targeting child abuse. Upon completion a 25-year-old Queensland native was arrested for running a child abuse website on TOR, and many more are still under investigation. The 25-year-old was charged with multiple counts of child abuse and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
The taskforce exposed one of the largest pedophilia rings to date for the continent, potentially saving 100’s of children from sexual exploitation online. Lately it seems sites like this are common place among the majority of deep web users. Never mind the numerous drug and murder for higher markets that were once the fear of nations; there seems to be a brand new evil taking they’re place.
The taskforces operation uncovered members from Australia, Europe, United Kingdom, and the United States. The FBI used NIT attacks to not crack TOR encryption, but to bypass the encryption all together. The attacks were camouflaged as flash download applications on the taken over CP sites on the TOR network. The Playpen was the largest CP board ever found on the TOR network. Well over 1,300 visitors were traced the first day of the 2-week operation launched by the FBI.
Having over 215,000 members and more than 117,000 posts; the Playpen site was undoubtedly the largest brought down yet. 11,000 unique IP addresses were tracked and pinpointed at the very beginning of the takeover. The FBI ran the server they had taken down for a 2-week period. The NIT captured actual IP addresses by bypassing TOR encryption as the flash application was secretly loaded onto every system that visited the site during this time.
The American Civil Liberties Union has come out saying that it is very concerned that the FBI was able to hack more than 1000 computers with just a single warrant. The ACLU also is urging Congress as well as the public to seriously consider the FBI being allowed to use NIT’s at all after two meant were indicted in New York in 2015 related to the sting. This has only been the first of many arrests made in 2015.
Those arrested as a result of the FBI’s operation ranged from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Utah, as well as Wisconsin. “1500 or so of these cases are going to end up getting filed out of the same, underlying investigation”-Colin Fieman, Federal public defender for The Western District of Washington who is handling several of these cases.
“There will probably be an escalating stream of these in the next 6 months or so. There is going to be a lot in the pipeline.”