FBI Hacked Tor And Taken Down A Child Pornography Site

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Laptop computer with crime scene tape across it
The dark web refers to the section of the internet that cannot be discovered by conventional means.

Reports show that FBI’s hacking tool succeeded in cracking Tor and identifying the visitors to a dark web child pornography site.

In fact, the FBI has made use of hacking methods that have never been seen deployed till date in order to bring down the clients and owners of one of the largest child pornography sites that have ever been created on the dark web.

Your TOR usage is being watched

Playpen, a bulletin board site launched in August 2014, enabled Internet users to create an account and then upload images of their choice on to the dark web.

As per court documents, the primary purpose of the website was to advertise as well as distribute child pornography.

Dark Web

The dark web refers to the section of the internet that cannot be discovered by conventional means.

Users cannot access this section either through a Google search or by entering the URL of a site.

As the websites remain hidden, they are a safe haven for cyber criminals who created underground marketplaces for selling illicit and banned good and services, including firearms, narcotics, chemicals and counterfeit goods and services such as hacking.

Many of the dark web activities are carried out using the Tor (The Onion Router) anonymity network which serves to disguise web traffic.

FBI’s Hacking Tool Identifies IP/MAC Addresses

FBI agent in his office in uniform
Reports show that FBI’s hacking tool succeeded in cracking Tor and identifying the visitors to a dark web child pornography site.

Playpen had as many as 215,000 members, 117,000 posts and traffic of 11,000 unique visitors per week.

On the bulletin board, the FBI identified a number of child abuse imagery and advice as to how online detection can be potentially avoided by child sex abusers.

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The FBI seized the computer server that ran Playpen in February 2015.

The server belonged to a web hosting service provider located in Lenoir in North Carolina.

The FBI then decided to host Playpen on its servers in Newington, Virginia, for a period of two more weeks from February 20 to March 4.

The FBI then deployed a hacking tool – network investigative technique (NIT) – and made use of a single warrant to identify 1,300 IP addresses of visitors accessing the website.

These addresses were also traced back to actual individual users. As of now, the investigation has resulted in more than 1,500 cases.

NITs effectively captured the actual IP addresses of user computers and identified the computers’ operating system, architecture, MAC addresses, host name and active operating system username.

The hacking tool then issued a unique identification to each user.

Though the FBI has deployed NITs in the past, the agency was able to get through the Tor for the first time only in the case of Playpen.

According to reports, the hacking tool secretly installed a Flash application on the computers of users even though they accessed the bulletin board through Tor and the traffic was encrypted.

The application transmitted key data about the user back to the FBI outside of the Tor network.

It is true that the use of NITs has been instrumental in bringing down child pornographers, but what the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned about is the fact that the FBI has been able to hack more the 1,000 computers with the help of just one warrant.

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The Union wants the public and the Congress evaluate as to whether NITs should be used by law enforcement at all.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Thank God someone figured it out but when u find out the bad guy child touching pieces of shit then just post their name address work locations and description on a social site and I am sure a nearby resident of the area would be more then happy to take their time torturing and then disposing of the waste products still breathing. Peace

  2. Child molesters are an unfortunate but very real part of our society. Taking down one of their “anonymous” sites serves only to prove that they can and will infringe on our rights even at the lowest possible level they can find. Did taking down these sites/ criminals prevent any further crimes against children from happening? I personally believe that the action our government took to catch only a handful of these degenerates has served no one but themselves. What can be done to ultimately rid our communities of these people? That is the question. As hard as it may be to swallow, if we continue to be blinded by hate and disgust of these people then we will never understand how/why they think and behave the way they do. It is easy to toss these individuals aside in anger and disgust but at what point in society has anger and rage ever gotten us anywhere? My point is that to overcome something you must understand it and when we are blinded by hatred and anger we will not ever even come close to overcoming these people.

  3. They should be killed ! Only monsters would hurt children so jail is not what they need . A good old Fashion bullet will do the job ??

  4. This is why you
    (1) Disable any third-party plugins in Tor Browser
    (2) Use Proxifier, which forces proxy to every application in computer.

  5. Ok, child porn = bad sure, but where does it end? It always starts with using things like this to take down people committing “horrible crimes” but then it just snowballs until the FBI is tracking ISPs to arrest for misdemeanors. Once it starts it won’t stop, definitely won’t stop at child porn.

  6. Its convenient all this child porn being proliferated, its giving the big bloated governments more and more of an excuse to insist upon invasive monitoring of our every move online. If its child porn I don’t think government should even require a warrant, child protection should come first. Perhaps if we all took aggressive action towards the issue, actively seeking out the information that could be passed onto the judiciary, or, better still, organize our own task forces to deal with them. The truly libertarian thing to do is come together in mutual agreement with the view to irradiating our societies of this scourge, perhaps even having an area to mount the miscreants testicular s on – well a digital picture of the severed appendage – and in so doing we show law enforcement that, if they scratch our back by leaving us alone to make deals and use substances so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody (the caveat being ourselves!)

  7. Child porn is one of the most sicking things on the surface and deep web, as a fellow Tor user it’s our responsibility to shut these sites down but, we should be able regulate our-self’s. We use Tor to keep the government out of our internet, yea that’s right NSA, stay out of our cyber-lives. Unless you have evidence that was legally gathered and a warrant, you have no right to be spying on anyone. The surface and deep internet should be allowed to be self-regulated without direct interference from you, if the community needs some sick people taken care of by the law, we will let you know; till then, please stay out of the last place freedom of speech reigns supreme and censorship is only used in the most dire of circumstances.

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