Lolita City, and other alleged child porn websites, attacked by Anonymous

Filed Under: Law & order, Malware, Vulnerability

AnonymousThe hacktivist collective Anonymous has declared war on internet paedophiles, attacking websites it accuses of carrying child abuse images and videos, and declaring that anyone who hosts, promotes or supports child pornography is a target.

In an operation dubbed "Operation DarkNet" or "OpDarkNet", the loosely-knit group has claimed responsibility for taking offline over 40 websites accused of sharing child abuse material, and has published details of 1589 alleged paedophiles that had been using the websites.

In particular the hackers targeted a site called "Lolita City", and crashed the servers of its web hosting service Freedom Hosting. In a statement, Anonymous called "Lolita City" one of the "largest child pornography websites to date containing more than 100GB of child pornography".

Here is part of the statement from Anonymous that was published on the internet:

Anonymous statement

Did the Anonymous hackers do the right thing?
I don't think so. Their intentions may have been good, but take-downs of illegal websites and sharing networks should be done by the authorities, not internet vigilantes.

When 'amateurs' attack there is always the risk that they are compromising an existing investigation, preventing the police from gathering the necessary evidence they require for a successful prosecution, or making it difficult to argue that evidence has not been corrupted by hackers.

The anonymous hackers may feel they have done the right thing, but they may actually have inadvertently put more children at risk through their actions.

In addition, it's possible to conceive how releasing usernames could put entirely innocent parties at risk. After all, how likely is it that members of such websites will be using their own names as a username?

If anyone discovers evidence of child abuse online they should report it to the appropriate authorities, not take the law into their own hands.

At the same time, I recognise that members of the public may feel frustrated that action isn't taken quickly enough against online paedophiles, and not realise how long it can take for an investigation to take place and evidence to be gathered.

So, it's an interesting question - do you think Anonymous did the right thing by shutting down child porn websites?

How to properly report online child abuse
If you have information about online child abuse that you wish to report to the authorities, visit the websites of the Virtual Global Taskforce, CEOP (the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) and the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) which provide a reporting mechanism.

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52 Responses to Lolita City, and other alleged child porn websites, attacked by Anonymous

  1. nobodyimportant · 1058 days ago

    i like this post http://krypt3ia.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/operatio...

    "I suggest more than just dropping Pastebin dumps… In fact, I suggest you don’t dump them at all. You can allude to the fact that you have popped something and you have the data, but, I would suggest you set up cutout accounts and directly dump that data to the Feds or local LEO’s if you like where the servers/people are located. By dumping the data out in the open you give the paedo’s time to burn the evidence so to speak and potentially, you may be inhibiting the Feds from actually capturing and putting these people away."

    I agree with that.

  2. Clashguy · 1058 days ago

    Yeah good question, can that information that was dumped be used in a court of law? Stopping a website is one thing, but you really want to stop the pedophiles, which hacking a website might not do. Granted you do want that type of stuff off the net, but potentially that's all that's been done, to remove the information off the net but still leave the people on the net.

  3. caledonia · 1058 days ago

    I agree, they should pass it on to the authorities but it does beg the question if anonymous can find one o the largest paedo sites why are the police failing? ...are the authorities up to the job?

    • Clashguy · 1057 days ago

      There was a site or pedo ring that was raided recently by the FBI or some other law enforcement agency, I can't remember it's name or find an article on it though, I thought it was something with the word dream in it though.

      • Clashguy · 1057 days ago

        Graham posted the link down below in reply to my question.

    • shaun · 1039 days ago

      Who says the police were not closeing in on it & would have ended up locking these pervs up but now they will all run & hide or dump everything so now the police will be powerless

    • BlackFog · 796 days ago

      It's sad but closing websites like megaupload makes money. Fighting pedophiles doesn't.

  4. michele wallis · 1058 days ago

    the authorities seem unable to deal with this issue in any way! the minute amount of perpetrators that end up inside or better still in treatment is appalling. if anonymous can shut the sites down why the hell can't the law?? i would rather see the sites disabled for good now than wait for justice to wake up..i don't understand why the web does not monitor and close these sites,they manage to close sites that are pollitically "incorrect" if the government cannot/willnot protect the people...who will??

  5. Iain · 1058 days ago

    Hacking is illegal and wrong. The fact that it was against an illegal and immoral website doesn't alter the fact. It looks to me like a cynical attempt to justify their activities by choosing an emotive target that will gain them support. I note in your poll that only 20% of voters said they were wrong. I'm one of those 20%. When one scoundrel clobbers another scoundrel it is no cause for celebration.

    • Sizzle69 · 1058 days ago

      Laws change. What's illegal today could be justified tomorrow. Not all laws are right.

      This has brought publicity against these disgraceful sites once again. Perhaps the general public will care for at least 10 minutes and put pressure on the authorities to put aside the politics and bullsh1t and do the "legal" hacking to make a difference. Anonymous shouldn't have to make a stand against it because the police should have done it long ago!!

      Or perhaps we can call Cyber Hague and he can save the day with one of his Cyber Weapons.

    • Chief Bullshagger · 1058 days ago

      "Hacking is illegal and wrong. The fact that it was against an illegal and immoral website doesn't alter the fact."

      I think of it in the same sense of drunk driving; if you get in an accident while drunk, and it's not even your fault, you're still eligible for blame, as you shouldn't have been there in the first place. Paedos are evil scum, regardless of whether you consider it an "illness" or not.

      Any way society can attack them is fine by me. Unless they mistakenly out me as a paedo, obviously.

    • JPL · 1058 days ago

      Two things,
      One: less than 150 years ago Slavery was legal, and still wrong; 100 years ago Women had no voice and were a step up from property; and today there are a host of arguments against the constitutionalism of current laws; point being, our government is slow and operates mostly on precedence until a movement is strong enough to make a judge risk his reputation on changing interpretation.

      Two: The argument that its illegal, therefore its wrong, is extremely immature and slightly depressing to hear. There are mitigating and justifying factors in almost every act, right or wrong, done. Black and white judgements, right or wrong statements are shields that ignorant and usually lazy, people hide behind to avoid actually thinking about an issue.

      Yes, hacking is illegal... unless you are protected by the patriot act, have a warrant, security clearance, or other federal permission that gives you the go ahead; but anyone who looks and studies the trends in American Pop-Culture will tell you that based on an increased interest in vigilantism in books, TV shows, movies, and even real life, the average American has lost almost all faith in the American Justice System and strongly yearns for something it sees as more direct justice, not violence, not political game-play, actual Justice. Justice when the rich white embezzler/investment fraud/perjurer/etc. goes to jail for life instead of paying a campaign contribution and getting 6 months of house arrest; Justice for the falsely accused, improperly processed, and executed innocent, Justice for the increasing number of people killed in police related accidents, Real Human Justice, not the bureaucratic clusterfnck we have today.

      When the legal system regains the faith of the public, there will be no need for groups like Anon to exist, but until that day I thank them for feeding my soul something it greatly needed, the knowledge of active citizens willing to take a risk doing something that isn't necessarily legal, but that we all know is right.

    • Crow · 824 days ago

      "When one scoundrel clobbers another scoundrel it is no cause for celebration."

      I disagree. When a Taliban kill an al-Qa’ida member or vice versa, the world is down one less terrorist. While hacking might be illegal, removing a vile disease and exposing the people that view, share and exploit children is a good thing. The Justice System is slow and innefficient at combating this problem and something needs to be done.

      Are you are one of those that would cry foul when Spiderman saves the city because he doesn't have a license or acts outside the law. I would support any hero for his actions that fight against child poronography.

  6. Kristina · 1058 days ago

    Pedo's get very little jail time for the crimes they commit. I would rather see these sites shut down. Really don't care who does it.

  7. Wile E Coyote · 1058 days ago

    Are Anon going to shut down Usenet then? Somehow I don't think so.

    I call this as I see it - grandstanding and a cheap shot at publicity.

    This overtly well intentioned effort is likely to result in *less* child abusers and pornographers facing justice, while generating some "feel-good" factor and goodwill among the periphery. Behind the scenes though, I doubt there is any real serious intent on the part of Anon to rid the web of this material.

    The law is the law and they are breaking it just as they have done in the past. If we allow any Tom, Dick or Harry to administer justice against alleged child pornographers, we allow a vigilante state.

  8. Frustrated · 1058 days ago

    I am guessing that these sites have been operating for some period of years. Any possible police investigation that lasts for years and still does nothing is questionable as to it efficacy and its true intent. Delaying for too long and the action becomes protection of the perp rather than society. When the proposed investigation cannot be of every site and when the big fish are allowed to swim to 'try to get them all at once', can there ever be a time the police will act?
    Yes, Anonymous hackers acted both in ignorance and with good intentions. I expect that more good will come of it than harm. The harm will be to different individuals than the children being exploited. So why had not these sites been closed down ages ago as soon as they became at all visible to that shadow web?
    It is very frustrating to stand as an outsider and look at this situation, even with information as limited as we have here, and not jump to the simple conclusion that the police are slow to act. Prosecution of those molesting children should not wait for Godot!

  9. if superheroes exist...Anonymous is one. you may not like or agree with what they do - but it's blatantly obvious that they are no longer a collective of "misfits" surfing 4chan all day for lulz. think of your favorite comic book superhero that went after the "bad guys" not caring what the police have to say or the citizens (like Batman perhaps?), we all thought everything he did was justified...whether we actually thought about it or not. take the Metazetas in mexico - they killed known violent cartel members and dumped dozens of them on the highway very close to the building where, the same day, a police conference was being held on how to deal with the Zetas (the most violent/deadly cartel in mexico). ALMOST the same thing. take occupy wall street - hundreds of thousands of people all over the world expressing their frustration with corporate greed across the board.

    • As far as I know, occupy wall street is not doing anything illegal - whereas murder and defacement/takedowns is illegal.

      Not to mention that Batman, while a vigilante, never kills anyone. ;-)

  10. What they did was illegal, but at least it's better than what they've been up to thus far. The fact that they can do better than our own law enforcement agencies is highly troubling.

    We really do need that multi-national internet police, sooner rather than later. A coordinating task-force combining efforts across borders.

  11. I agree with @BFroberg: It's illegal, but it gives me hope that the Anonymous collective has a vein of morality and can move past its power-hungry, publicity-whoring, schoolyard-bully early ways. If I were a child psychologist, I'd track the personality of this collective as it ages to see how parts of its collective brain begin to take on less of a toddler's mentality, more of a reasonable citizen's profile. They're still acting rashly now, but it will be interesting to see how their behavior changes as its members mature. Wow, I just came off sounding extraordinarily middle-aged, didn't I? Hurray for gray hair, and great article, Graham.

    • Cheers. But I don't want to see them grow up, as it were. I'd rather if they work from the proper side of the fence.. we have enough rogues as it is.

  12. Mark · 1058 days ago

    Graham, get a clue-what is more effective: over budgeted, under educated, and impotent government investigations? Or, Anonymous pulling off a job they can do before lunch with one eye open?

    To the knuckleheads who think this is a PR ploy and this is the only "good" thing Anonymous has done-where is your logic when it comes to their previous operations? Were those "bad"?

    Anon-nice shot dropping the userlist out there, we all know how many nitwits use the same credentials all over the place.

    To everyone else-ask yourself why that creepy co-worker isn't in work today (sledgehammering hard drives in his basement) or if he is in, he's really bent out of shape and has to deal with a lot of "network issues" as he moves his pics out of the company machines.

  13. Dan · 1058 days ago

    The issue comes into play that evidence obtained illegally is deemed inadmissible in court. So simply by the actions of anonymous hackers illegally accessing the data, a case might be lost against these scumbags because all data obtained can now be considered tampered with, and as such would not be able to be used in trial. As much as a part of me wants to cheer for hackers taking down disgusting websites that exploit innocent children, I wish they would try to approach it in a way that could actually assist the authorities instead of possibly helping the criminals get away...

    • +1 for that comment. :-)

    • The99Percent · 1047 days ago

      Have you ever stopped to ask yourself WHY the so called `justice`system now seems to help criminals and not help victims? I have NEVER seen justice when it came to all the guys that have prayed on me as a child and all because of the so called "justice" system being too lenient and allowing criminals to walk free.

  14. Joey · 1058 days ago

    "but they may actually have inadvertently put more children at risk through their actions."

    As opposed to what... spending several more years collecting evidence as more children get hurt?

    • The children will get hurt no matter what. Whether or not they can be prosecuted hinges on proper chain of evidence.

      Taking down a site does not prevent a molester from his task, it merely makes him find a new site to share his filth on.

      • Joey · 1057 days ago

        That's exactly my point... in either scenario, unfortunately, children will get hurt.

        These types of sites can at any given moment can take down their site, especially if they feel they are being monitored, destroy all traces of it's existence... completely wiping out the authorities efforts to collect evidence against them.

        Atleast in the scenario where Anonymous has stepped in, something is being done.

        • Hence why infiltration and documentation is crucial.

          Taking down one site or five hundred makes no bit of difference - catching the people behind it will.

  15. guest · 1057 days ago

    I definitely support Anonymous - problem is that many paedophiles are sitting on the top our social ladder and only someone independent can succeed!

    On this site are no one is innocent only child!

    Best wishes,

    pr0of

  16. Clashguy · 1057 days ago

    Graham, can you find the info about the pedo ring that was raided by the FBI sometime in the last few months?

    • I think you're referring to "Dreamboard":

      Details at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/08/f...

      • Clashguy · 1057 days ago

        Thank you Graham.

        And this is why things should be left to authorities IMO or at least that Anonymous should give their information to authorities and not the general public. By anonymous posting information about Lolita City have they potentially made it so something like this cannot occur or will now take longer to occur? Have they just given the pedos the heads up so they now know how to protect themselves better or will now go into hiding? The feds do investigate child pornography, they just have to abide by the letter of the law, and this sect of Anonymous, although wanting to do good, may have potentially just made things harder on the people that have the ability to make arrests.

  17. narkoman · 1057 days ago

    well while u wait for the copz to wake up I'd rather see Anonymous in action

    • Yes, well, I'd rather the "copz" take the child molesters to prison than see them walk on technicalities.

  18. Clashguy · 1057 days ago

    On a side note, I think these people can always be someone you can contact if you come across questionable content on a site.
    http://www.ecpat.net/

    And they work on an international level.

  19. This action action has put more children at risk.

    They haven't actually caught any of the offenders here. All they have done is warn them about some holes they have in their security. The exact thing that Anonymous say is a benefit to us when they 'teach' our government to tighten security practices. What they have done is warn all pedophiles world wide to re-examine their data safety practices. Imagine how much evidence has been destroyed that could have brought those harming children to justice. Police worldwide will now have to work even harder to convict (not just locate) the criminals responsible. Because of that and the free pass those 1,500 criminals just got (you can bet they have all just destroyed any incriminating evidence).
    That is one way that more children are at risk now than before this act.

    All of the members will now have to join other child porn sites to get their fix. A lot of these require the uploading of original content to gain membership or access to content. The creation of original material will involve the direct harm of children.

    Taking down these ring without catching any of those involved is not a net gain to society, you need to stop the people who are offending not just put a list of names on the Internet. If you want an example of how much good lists do, think about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. His name was on a list, it didn't stop him getting on a plane with a bomb though.

  20. Kirsten · 1057 days ago

    "Leave it to the authorities...", take a seat in the back and relax while you're at it.

  21. Wills Ohrnberger · 1057 days ago

    My only comment, is that Anonymous are not amateurs they probably out hack the authorities, they are whats up, they are what is going to organize our generation to create change, hopefully in a snowball like effect.

  22. WizardofCOR · 1057 days ago

    One of the more interesting notions that some vainly attempt to maintain (and subsequently use as a crutch) is that Anonymous is somehow an organized and malicious group of individuals, bent on vigilantism. This isn't the case - therefore, all arguments relying upon said supposition are invalid. If we know anything about Anonymous, we should understand that it is essentially a global collective, and not confined by any dogma.
    Additionally, and as we all should know, there truly is no official "internet authority". Sure, we have government agencies that always attempt to make the claim. Yet truth be told, they are understaffed, incompetent, and/or egocentric buffoons whose end-results haven't made the web safer - for anyone.
    Sadly, this is why Sophos and other Anti-Virus companies still exist. Oh but wait, it gets better; now there are also Anti-Malware, Anti-Rootkit and Surf-Protection businesses, too. You see, internet policing is bad for business - especially for those who are directly (and indirectly) paid within it's arena.
    Anonymous isn't paid. They are the closest thing to any sort of internet conscience and moral governance that exists, and the membership is growing.
    If they didn't take the pedo site down, it would still be up and distributing.
    For those who would attempt to make the claim that taking it down would somehow hurt children, apply that same theory to the standard porn industry - or the automobile industry - or any other industry for that matter. It is a ludicrous position to suggest that fresh content isn't created (or even slowed) when old content still exists. It should also be considered a severe lack of judgement to state this take-down action would put more children at risk. If anything, the take-down and subsequent exposure of membership targets the real problem, in a very real way.
    In the world of the Internet, the end truly does justify the means - we all should support this move by Anonymous, because it is the will of all of us.

  23. Mark · 1056 days ago

    Graham, get a clue-what is more effective: over budgeted, under educated, and impotent government investigations? Or, Anonymous pulling off a job they can do before lunch with one eye open?

    To the knuckleheads who think this is a PR ploy and this is the only "good" thing Anonymous has done-where is your logic when it comes to their previous operations? Were those "bad"?

    Anon-nice shot dropping the userlist out there, we all know how many nitwits use the same credentials all over the place.

    To everyone else-ask yourself why that creepy co-worker isn't in work today (sledgehammering hard drives in his basement) or if he is in, he's really bent out of shape and has to deal with a lot of "network issues" as he moves his pics out of the company machines.

  24. Ben McClure · 1048 days ago

    Anonymous's actions should not have affected any existing criminal investigations. They are unrelated. Any government who claims that the actions of a group of hackers who brought a server down somehow compromised their investigation of the server is simply covering their own collective ass by providing a reason for failure other than "we failed."

    Anonymous took a step that authorities either cannot take because they don't have the evidence, or will not take for one reason or another. Either way, the authorities were leaving the sites run even when it was known they exist, so something was preventing them from taking it further.

    Personally, I'm thankful we have groups like Anonymous using their skills for a worthy cause instead of simply maliciousness.

  25. just one soldier · 1045 days ago

    Graham Cluley,

    Please comment on my thoughts:

    I'llt tell you what I do when I find under 18 pornography (especially child / youn teen porn, since some 15-16 girls these days seem to be 18-20... It's worthless complaining when I'm not sure if it's really a crime - sure you all understand this):

    first, I report to InterPol, FBI, and IWF.

    Second, I immediately contact the server housing the videos os images.

    I don't have a lot of experience doing that. Let's say I've done it about 50 times.

    And guess what: the content is removed in a questions of minutes or hours when I complain directly to servers as RapidShare, Oron, FileSonic, FileServer, MegaUpload, etc.

    But when I complain to FBI, InterPol or IWF, they sometimes take days untill the link or the content is removed... Ye, I check their job. I don't know if they have lack of means, but their work is very inefficient.

    Now, do you think I'm harming more than helping investigation?

    What's the benefit of "investigation" while a 10 yo girl video is being available worlwide for 2 weeks to millions of people? Oh, f**k "investigation", in that case! The content must be removed ASAP!

    • Telly · 501 days ago

      They take so long because they can't just demand that something gets shut down before they verify it's content. You could simply be an unsatisfied customer or a pedo yourself who's disgruntled at the fact that they won't show little kiddies.

      Also, they have complaints coming in from everywhere, probably thousands to billions. It's a lot to sift through

  26. Anonymous · 958 days ago

    They did not just take the sites down, they posted the full names and addresses of the people in charge of the sites. And some of the people posting images of children. And guess what...The FBI doesnt do anything about it..The parents give their kids laptops with build in webcams, they dont do anything about it but make the problem worse...They did the world a favor. If you think its wrong becaue its illegal. your just dumb..

  27. Rikki · 901 days ago

    im a professional internet hacker and i can say for sure that they DID NOT TAKE THE SITE OFFLINE AT ALL AND THEY DID NOT POST "ANY" "ANY" REAL NAMES! they posted fake names and real usernames that are easy to get hold off, i have been working with computers for 25 years and i can say for sure that anonymous wouldn't be able to hack a email let alone a whole website, they said they did this for some easy fame that they wanted and it turns out it worked THERE ALL SCRIPT KIDDIES! 90% of them have no coding knowledge at all!

  28. Thinkitsnotillegal · 886 days ago

    okay, I have read three reports about the "good work" of Anonymous in shutting down 48 alleged child porn sites. Its great that these guys are getting kudos for screwing up multiple investigations in countless jurisdictions, by committing a criminal act themselves. I understand that this is a HOT BUTTON topic and will get the immediate knee jerk reactionaries of: GREAT JOB, WAY TO GO et al.

    The issue is 48 websites is really a drop in the bucket compared to the global market that is available and supplied, let alone the over the counter variety of underage kiddies having sex and sharing it on their web cams across yahoo, skype, and more. If you look at the available number of porn sites available which I think I have heard is over 420 million and people are celebrating the closure of 48...if even 1% of available porn is of the kiddie variety that isn't even a drop of water in a back yard above ground pool.

    The regular porn industry is a multi-billion dollar a year operation between video sales and website memberships, and even they use actresses who look far younger than the required 18yrs of age because there is a market for it...who's to say that there isn't another Traci Lords in the industry again. Here is another thing to think about as well, what is the age of consent in your own state let alone another nation...there is no universal law that covers the web...I know people do not want to think about it, as WE AMERICANS seem to think we are the moral compass for the world...sorry to take an anvil to the USA ego but, we aren't that highly thought of world wide.

    The internet is truly the wild wild west. Lets be honest and take a look at how many crimes are committed on the internet every day...illegal music downloads, motion picture downloads, account hacking, identity theft, credit fraud, illegal prescription drug distributors preying on senior citizens and these happen every day, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, and in some cases even billions in loss. And people wonder why law enforcement cant get anything done effectively. They are overwhelmed by the day to day crimes in their own jurisdictions let alone a problem as large as any I listed previous...so pick your poison, Lets ask those who lived in pre-glasnost USSR how they enjoyed a police state as that is what is being, even lightly, hinted at people wanting.

  29. jon · 830 days ago

    all the posters on here seem not to have noticed that these are sites only accessable using tor and are not available unless you run a tor client.Tor means that the hosting servers cannot be located and thus cannot be siezed or shut by law enforcers.The same software is used by political activists in many countries to avoid or circumvent censorship, iran china etc. Tor is also used by many prvacy aware internet users to stop ISP snooping, Sadly it can also be used by child abusers, so can be seen to have both good and bad uses.Normal internet sites ot this nature are normally closed down quickly when found .some countries are quicker than others at taking action.The same applies to blocking access to known sites, but tor and other means can be used to bypass blocks and filters.Anonymous in the long term will probably make no difference whatsoever.

  30. Bert · 774 days ago

    Anonymous has already been infiltrated and its members 'turned' by the 'authorities' and so "Anonymous" now 'is' "the authorities". Groups like anonymous are not in the business of crime fighting nor are they on the side of the authorities even for a just cause.
    Think about it.

  31. Todd · 683 days ago

    The problem with giving the data to the feds is a good defense attourney could easily get the data thrown of out court because it was gained through illegal means.

  32. Telly · 501 days ago

    Well, the fact is this. When law enforcement is either unable or incapable of defending the people, it is the job of the people then to defend themselves, whatsoever that may entail.

    You want crime and the violent the thrive, then stop defending the people who suffer from it, and forbid them from doing what's necessary to stop it themselves. The left is good at that sort of thing.

    Right now people are terrorized by gangs and roving bands of "revolutionary" militias that could be wiped out if the people they terrorize were given the means and allowed to take the actions necessary to stop it.

    So, as far as I'm concerned, if they hindered government in investigations, then punish the hackers, but if they did not, then kudos to them for getting those sites taken down.

    The point here is something we all must remember, getting sites, pics, and vids taken down is one thing, but does nothing to save the abused. Catching the perps is a far far better thing. So there's a debate as to whether this particular group of hackers did the right thing. In all likelihood, they did.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.