Tracking the actions of a group like Anonymous can be a tricky proposition, mainly because Anonymous is less like a "group" and more like a loose coalition of like-minded hackers. But according to the claims of some internet denizens identifying themselves with Anonymous, they have launched a campaign against an online child pornography ring that consists of over 40 different sites.
They are calling this operation #OpDarknet, and apparently have taken down Freedom Hosting, providers of free hidden web hosting. Anonymous found that Freedom Hosting was hosting a variety of child porn sites on the Tor network, a system that is used to enable anonymity online.
Earlier this month, the folks behind #OpDarknet discovered a section on the Hidden Wiki called "Hard Candy," any found that is was full of links to child pornography. They took down the links, only to find that they had been restored 5 minutes later. They then discovered that 95% of all the child porn on the list could be traced to one provider: Freedom Hosting. Here's what happened next, as told by Anonymous:
At apprx 9:00pm CST on October 14, 2011 We identified Freedom Hosting as the host of the largest collection of child pornography on the internet. We then issued a warning to remove the illegal content from their server, which they refused to do.
At apprx 11:30pm CST on October 14, 2011 We infiltrated the shared hosting server of Freedom Hosting and shutdown services to all clients due to their lack of action to remove child pornography from their server.
At apprx 5:00pm CST on October 15, 2011 Freedom Hosting installed their backups and restored services to their child pornography clients. We then issued multiple warnings to remove all child pornography from their servers, which Freedom Hosting refused to do.
At apprx 8:00pm CST on October 15, 2011 despite new security features, we once again infiltrated the shared hosting server at Freedom Hosting and stopped service to all clients.
Anonymous not only shut down the sites, but exposed login details from more than 1,500 users, many who were tied to the most popular site of the bunch, Lolita City.
Here's their mission statement, as it pertains to #OpDarknet:
The owners and operators at Freedom Hosting are openly supporting child pornography and enabling pedophiles to view innocent children, fueling their issues and putting children at risk of abduction, molestation, rape, and death.
For this, Freedom Hosting has been declared #OpDarknet Enemy Number One.
By taking down Freedom Hosting, we are eliminating 40+ child pornography websites, among these is Lolita City, one of the largest child pornography websites to date containing more than 100GB of child pornography.
We will continue to not only crash Freedom Hosting's server, but any other server we find to contain, promote, or support child pornography.
That's the official version of events. Here's a little more entertaining depiction of how it went down, according to another Anonymous release on pastebin -
We broke down the heavily fortified door of the Pedo fort. We cocked THOR and fired Nyan Nyan bullets in every direction. After a bloody battle with trolls, pedos, and pedo bear, we Anonymous became victorious. What was left of pedo fort, pedo bear, and fellow pedos was a 100 mile hole. Lolita City and it's neighboring 40+ pedo strongholds were destroyed.
And this video statement takes the same kind of tone, saying that they armed themselves with their "Chris Hansen cannons" to take down the child porn ring.
Anonymous is best known for their attacks on corporations and governmental secrecy, and this is a bit of a departure for the group. If you check the Twitter chatter and YouTube comments for the above video, you'll see that most people are both impressed and thankful for this operation.
Not everyone thinks it's a great idea, however. Graham Cluley of Sophos said that "their intentions may have been good, but take-downs of illegal websites and sharing networks should be done by the authorities, not internet vigilantes."
Maybe Anonymous did something that the authorities were unable to do or they simply did it faster. What do you think? Is this AnonOp something you support? Let us know in the comments.