(Photo: Vincent Diamante)
Two weeks ago, roughly a fifth of the dark wet was taken down by a single person affiliated with Anonymous, a hacktivist group. The hacker targeted and successfully took down a server that hosted 10,000 websites on the Tor network. Tor is a service that allows users to access the dark web anonymously. The hacker, in an interview with Motherboard (Vice New’s tech site), states “This is in fact my first hack ever," and that it was simply his curiosity which led him into breaching Freedom Hosting II’s server. After discovering the existence of ten child pornography sites and evidence that the administration knew of the illicit sites they were being paid to host, however, he decided to take it down.
To explain what exactly the dark web is, we must first start with the surface web - the parts of the internet that can be indexed by a search engine such as the ones most of us use daily. Search engines such as these operate completely off of links to websites. The deep web is defined by the parts of the internet that search engines cannot access directly. Information found on the deep web is is specific to certain websites, contents of online databases, passages in online libraries, and more. To dig deeper still, there are parts of the internet that are intentionally hidden unless you are using specific software such as Tor. These parts of the internet are known as the dark web and are commonly associated with drug trafficking, hacking, illegal weapons trade, and child pornography.
Following the hack, the anonymous hacker made a public torrent (download) with Tor information: the participating user’s emails and keys to decrypt them, as well as all the system files from the server. He did not make the user data public, as that is what contained approximately 30 gigabytes of child porn. While this cyber vigilante drove a headfirst assault into exposing and taking down this criminal activity, the FBI has preferred using more covert methods. In the past they gained control of the original server host (Freedom Hosting I) and used the access to catch and record IP addresses of visitors. This led to actual arrests and could be used to link to other criminal behavior, while this Anonymous hacker’s actions just directly took a chunk of the content itself down. "If there is ever going to be a chance like that again, I won't say no to taking them down, but I do not plan to do so," the hacker told Motherboard.
James Samaras Staff Reporter