Nearly half of the 'deep web' goes dark following child porn bust

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fbi, malware, tor, child abuse, child pornography, the onion network, deep web, silk road

You may not know it but there is a whole other side of the Internet that exists where users are able to surf anonymously. Known by some as the “deep web,” it’s a network primarily used to peddle illegal drugs and child pornography but over the weekend, nearly half of the sites on the Tor (short for “the onion router”) network went dark.

The Tor network works by routing traffic through randomly-selected computers in the Tor network. This method can be used by those surfing the network as well as those hosting sites to hide the location of their servers.

Freedom Hosting is the largest host used by secret sites on deep web. Eric Eoin Marques, the person believed to be behind the hosting company, was arrested in Ireland late last week and is awaiting extradition to the US over child pornography charges.

A few days later, a piece of malware was loaded onto all sites hosted by Freedom Hosting. The malicious software was designed to gather and send identifying information to an IP address in Reston, Virginia. It exploited a critical memory management hole found in many dated versions of Firefox.

According to reverse-engineer Vlad Tsrklevich and a number of others, either the FBI or some other law enforcement agency is responsible for the malware in an attempt to identify those using the network. Using the network itself isn't illegal as it is used by some human rights groups and even journalists wishing to remain anonymous but those using it to distribute and collect child abuse material could be in trouble. The FBI press office declined to comment when asked about their involvement with the malware.

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