The hacktivists in Anonymous have continued their crusade against child pornography websites by publicly disclosing the IP addresses of 190 people allegedly found to have illegal sexual images of kids on their computers.
Anonymous posted the IP addresses to Pastebin on Wednesday. It was the group's latest effort in OpDarknet, its monthlong campaign to take down child porn websites hosted on the "darknet." The darknet is any part of the Internet that is deliberately hidden from view and reachable only through IP anonymizing-portals such as TOR. Darknet sites are traditionally used to host and trade child pornography or offer other illegal services, such as fake IDs and steroids.
The hackers launched their first notable attack Oct. 20, taking down 40 of these darknet child porn websites and leaking the names of 1,589 active members of Lolita City, a file-sharing site used by pedophiles. But, as Gawker pointed out, Anonymous was not satisfied with the response, or lack thereof, from law enforcement, and so posted the offenders' IP addresses.
"They'll take forever … Due process for some of these guys are so weak," a hacker told Gawker's Adrian Chen in a chat room. "The best way for law enforcement to react is for us to release it. They can choose to follow or not."
In its message on Pastebin, Anonymous explained the social engineering scam — both simple in its mission and technical in its execution — that led to the capture of the alleged child pornography users' IP addresses.
Anonymous discovered that TOR would release a new version on Oct. 27 to address security issues. Anonymous said it then contacted Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox Web browser, who Anonymous said authorized the hacking group's creation of a button that would funnel all traffic going to the hidden, TOR-accessible-only child porn site Lolita City back to Anonymous' forensic logger. (Lolita City, along with numerous other child pornography sites, is located on the Hidden Wiki, a guidebook to hundreds of darknet sites.) Anonymous called its button "The Honey Pawt," and its logger "Whiny da Pedo."
"Our TorButton aka 'The Honey Pawt' did not contain any malware or virus," Anonymous wrote. "It was developed according to the Firefox/Mozilla guidelines."
In an email to SecurityNewsDaily, Mozilla's Add-ons product manager, Justin Scott, called Anonymous' claim that it contacted Mozilla "rather odd."
"I've checked in with the add-ons team over here and no one at Mozilla was contacted by Anonymous in an official capacity," Scott told SecurityNewsDaily. "We also do not issue certificates for add-ons, as they [Anonymous] note in the release. The Honey Pawt add-on is not available in Mozilla's add-ons marketplace. All add-ons available in the marketplace have been reviewed by a member of the add-ons team per the review process."
With their IP-tracking device in place, the hackers continued what they called "Operation Paw Printing," deploying a common trick used by phishers and other cybercrooks. The group placed a phony TOR security update message on the Hard Candy section (which hosts child pornography sites) of the Hidden Wiki and waited for alleged child-porn-seeking Web users to download it. Once they did, Anonymous was able to block the requests of people attempting to visit a known child porn site.
On the Pastebin leak page, Anonymous sent a message to the accused child porn viewers it exposed.
"To the pedophile community, based on the evidence and forensics, that We Anonymous gathered, there is no need for you to troll anymore, mmmkay? We have already ID'd you despite 'the myth' of Tor 'Anonymity.' We 'pwned' and 'hacked' Freedom Hosting and Lolita City. If your names for your sick trade consist of 'Lolita' and 'pedo bear,' pedophiles are called 'Britney' and 'squealer' in jail."
Anonymous added that the purpose of OpDarknet was not to cast blame on TOR but to show that a few alleged rotten apples have spoiled the service for the majority of its legitimate users, which include "Chinese/Iran journalists, Government intelligence fighting a secret war with Al-Qaeda, and us Anons who believe in the right to Free Speech."