Anonymous Hacker Takes Down More than 10,000 Dark Web Sites
By Jef Cozza / CIO Today. Updated February 06, 2017.
More than 10,000 Web sites were taken down in an attack launched over the weekend that was aimed at sites hosting child pornography, according to reports. The scale of the hack is massive, accounting for about 20 percent of the so-called Dark Web, and appears to have been the work of a single hacker.
The anonymous vigilante managed to pull off the attack by targeting Freedom Hosting II, a hosting service that specializes in Dark Web sites and hosts nearly one fifth of the Dark Web, making it one of the largest such providers in the world.
Dark Web Down
The Dark Web is the name given to a collection of Web sites and networks that use the infrastructure of the Internet, but are not indexed by search engines. Typically, users can only connect to Dark Web sites through invitations, special network configurations or by using anonymizing software, such as the Tor browser.
Thanks to their reputation for anonymity, such Web sites are often used for illegal purposes, although political activists living in repressive regimes also use the system to protect themselves from reprisals.
The provider that was targeted, Freedom Hosting II, is named after the original Freedom Hosting provider that had previously been hacked by the FBI to track down visitors to child pornography sites.
The hack was first confirmed by security researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis, who wrote on her Web site that Freedom Hosting II also hosted a variety of other illegal services, such as bitcoin scams and the sale of counterfeit documents.
The hacker claiming responsibility for the attack said he or she first gained access to the provider a week ago, but only managed to gain read access at first. That allowed the hacker to see what files the service was hosting, but prevented the individual from adding or deleting any data.
According to the anonymous hacker, the original intention was not to shut Freedom Hosting II down, but only to have a peek at the files being hosted. The hacker then quickly stumbled onto at least 10 child pornography sites, hosting an estimated 30 GB of data.
While the hacker published the hosting services’ system files, the person declined to release the user data, apparently due to the large amount of child pornography that it contained. Instead, the hacker turned the files over to security researchers, who plan to transmit the information to law enforcement agencies.
The attack does not appear to have been particularly sophisticated, and the hacker claimed that it was his or her first attack. The hacker also said there are no plans to launch any additional attacks.
This is not the first time vigilante hackers have taken the law into their own hands when it comes to sites hosting child pornography. The hacker collective known as Anonymous has mounted campaigns to track down abusers in the past, and other hackers have deleted links to such sites.