Inside the shutdown of the ‘world’s largest’ child sex abuse website

TechCrunch | 10/16/2019 | Staff
dorkyrocker (Posted by) Level 3
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This morning, the Justice Department announced that it had brought charges against the administrator and hundreds of users of the “world’s largest” child sexual exploitation marketplace on the dark web.

For me, it marked the end of a story I’ve wanted to write for two years.

November - CBS - Security - Editor - ZDNet

In November 2017, I was working for CBS as the security editor at ZDNet. A hacker group reached out to me over an encrypted chat claiming to have broken into a dark web site running a massive child sexual exploitation operation. I was stunned. I had previous interactions with the hacker group, but nothing like this.

The group claimed it broke into the dark web site, which it said was titled “Welcome to Video,” and identified four real-world IP addresses of the site, said to be different servers running this supposedly behemoth child abuse site. They also provided me with a text file containing a sample of a thousand IP addresses of individuals who they said had logged in to the site. The hackers boasted about how they siphoned off the list as users logged in, without the users’ knowledge, and had over a hundred thousand more — but they would not share them.

Hackers - Breakthrough - Dark - Web - Child

If proven true, the hackers would have made a major breakthrough in not only discovering a major dark web child abuse site, but could potentially identify the owners — and the visitors to the site.

But at the time, we could not prove it.

Editor-in-chief - Story - Concern - Dark - Web

My then editor-in-chief and I discussed how we could approach the story. A primary concern was that the dark web site was already under federal investigation, and writing about it could jeopardize that effort.

But we also faced another headache: there was no legal way we could access the site to verify it was what the hackers claimed.

Children - World - Safer

“Children around the world are safer...
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