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Hack knocks out a fifth of the Dark Web

A self-styled vigilante attacked a less-than-scrupulous web host.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 5, 2017
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The Dark Web is having a rough time right now... although the victims in this case won't earn too much sympathy. An Anonymous-linked hacker speaking to Motherboard brought down about a fifth of the Tor network's 'secret' websites (over 10,000 of them) in a claimed vigilante move. The intruder decided to attack a Dark Web hosting service, Freedom Hosting II, after discovering that it was managing child porn sites it had to be aware of -- they were using gigabytes of data each when the host officially allows no more than 256MB. Each site had its usual pages replaced with a message that not only chastised FH2, but offered a data dump (minus user info) and explained the nature of the hack.

Reportedly, the attack wasn't difficult. The hacker only needed to have control over a site (new or existing) to get started. After that, it was mostly a matter of modifying a configuration file, triggering a password reset and getting root access.

From early indications, the perpetrator is handling the data relatively responsibly. It's going to a security researcher who'll hand it over to law enforcement, which might just use it to bust the porn peddlers. Investigators may be as frustrated as they are happy, though. When the FBI infiltrated Dark Web porn sites, it used location-tracking malware to help identify individual users. Well, it probably can't do that now -- investigators might pinpoint the site operators, but the clients will have scattered to the four winds. While this is still a blow to the internet's criminal underbelly, it's not as big a victory as it could have been.

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