Hacking Child Pornography

A new front has opened in the battle to control child pornography on the internet. Members of the Anonymous hacktivist movement have recently taken down more than 40 secret child-pornography websites and revealed the names of more than 1,500 members of one of the illegal sites.

Anonymous Hacktivists

According to Security News Daily:

The Anonymous campaign began Oct. 14, when members of the hacktivist group found a cache of child-pornography websites while browsing a secret website called the Hidden Wiki, a guidebook to hundreds of underground websites invisible to search engines and regular Internet users. The hackers singled out Lolita City, a file-sharing site used by pedophiles, and leaked the names of the site’s 1,589 active members to Pastebin on Tuesday (Oct. 18), the Examiner reported.

Member of Anonymous deciding to hack a website whose stance they don’t agree with is by no means shocking news. In the past year, Anonymous-affiliated hackers have gone after the New York Stock Exchange, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Recording Industry Association of America and government sites in Malaysia, Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

However, in targeting child pornography sites, and in explaining its methods of attack, these Anonymous-affiliated hackers have revealed a deeply disturbing side of the Internet unknown to most people.

The so-called “darknet,” from which this “Operation Darknet” hacking campaign takes its name, is any part of the Internet that is hidden from view — not just hard to reach, but deliberately concealed. In this instance, a darknet appears to have grown out of the free TOR routing service, which offers anonymous, encrypted Web browsing to any user.

The TOR-based darknet has reportedly grown into a private, encrypted constellation of websites offering a variety of shady and illegal services, from fake IDs and steroids to email hacking and tip on how to call in police raids as pranks. There’s even a hidden site called “The Last Box” that bills itself as an “Assassination Market.”

Not many people know about the “Darknet,” and if you do you’re probably up to no good. Anonymous’ success in penetrating and disrupting Darknet is significant since only the most technically sophisticated hackers could perform such a feat. Unfortunately, given the scope and seemingly endless proliferation of child pornography, it is unlikely that Anonymous can or will have any lasting impact. Their actions do, however, demonstrate to law enforcement and others the possibility of a new approach to dealing with online child exploitation.

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