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German Cybercrime Experts Shut Down Huge Child Porn Ring with 200,000 Images

By October 11, 2019 October 14th, 2019 No Comments
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Following months of intense investigation, German cybercrime experts have just shut down a giant child porn ring located on the dark web.

The chat-based platform allegedly featured around 200,000 illegal child porn entries and was regularly visited by hundreds of people from a number of countries around the world.

The cybercrime experts were first alerted to the child porn ring in December 2017 by an anonymous online tip through a German police site, which focuses on child exploitation images, cybercrime, and extremism.

Following up on the tip, authorities quickly found an international system—a Dubai-based internet provider was renting out the platform, while a Dutch server was harboring the child porn files. The authorities were then able “to identify several users from various countries” despite the complex encryptions that darknet platforms generally possess.

Related: Tech Companies Reported Over 45 Million Child Porn Images & Videos On Their Platforms Last Year

The unfortunate truth is that child porn exchange platforms that encourage site users to contribute their own unique abusive content wherever possible are not the exception on the dark web—they’re the rule. These German cybercrime experts do the work that many couldn’t stomach, and it’s a sad fact that where one is shut down, a dozen others thrive.

Don’t believe us? Let’s get the facts.

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 What is the dark web?

Before we get into the details, here’s a reminder of what the dark web actually is: it’s a hidden part of the internet that serves to facilitate largely criminal activity.

It’s not just something anyone can access through a simple Google search,⁠ though. You can think of it like a cheat code in a video game⁠—it exists in the game, but you have to press a bunch of different numbers and buttons in a specific order to get access to it.

Related: This Organization’s Plan To Erase Child Porn From The Internet Might Actually Work

In the same way you get access to a “perk” from a cheat, like invincibility or all 99 stats, the dark web also offers numerous kinds of “perks.” In some cases, it’s buying seven preloaded debit cards worth $17,500 for $500. In others, it’s purchasing $3,000 in counterfeit $20 bills for only $600.

Sounds enticing huh? And that’s exactly why people use it.

That also happens to be where the dark web and cheat code comparison ends, because using the dark web is very different than using a cheat code on an Xbox game. In other words, just because the deals are good, that doesn’t make them any less illegal.

Preloaded debit cards and counterfeit bills aren’t all that people buy and sell on the dark web. People also deal drugs, guns, and, you guessed it: extreme porn. Lots and lots of illicit porn.

Related: Today’s Teens Are Distributing Child Porn Of Themselves Without Knowing It

The thing is, a whole lot of the dark web porn isn’t porn you can find on an adult website—though a recent investigation by the anti-child porn organization Internet Watch Foundation reveals that there has been a sharp rise in criminals hiding child porn on apparently legal commercial adult pornography websites.

This stuff is more dark and extreme than you can imagine, and it involves images of the sexual abuse and torture of children.

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 Child exploitation is all over the dark web

In fact, 44% of all porn-related searches on the networks that facilitate the dark web’s operation involve child porn—which is exactly why the child porn ring that was brought down by the German authorities, with its hundreds of users, was a small fish in a big pond.

Luckily, in addition to the German authorities, there is Project Safe Childhood (PSF), a nationwide initiative launched by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child exploitation and abuse.

Related: How Mainstream Porn Is Connected To The Surge In Child Porn Arrests

Recently, PSF assisted the DOJ in bringing down 29-year-old Patrick Falte of Franklin, Tennessee, due to his role as the lead administrator of a child porn site which had over 72,000 registered users and hosted at least 200,000 users in total. Falte was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being charged with engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, three counts of advertising child porn, and three counts of distributing child porn.

Falte’s site, called “Giftbox Exchange,” began running through the dark web in July 2015. He established rules that required users to upload and share images and videos depicting pre-teen children being sexually abused before they could access the site. He also organized the site into different forums for posting different types of child porn, categorized by age range of the victims, including one particularly disturbing sub-forum for “Babies & Toddlers.” Horrible, we know.

Related: Investigation Reveals Sharp Rise In Hidden Links To Child Porn On Adult Porn Sites

While Falte isn’t the only one out there exploiting children through the use of the dark web, there is hope in the fight against child exploitation because of men and women like U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee who make it their life’s work to end child exploitation.

Cochran, after Falte received his sentence, declared, “With all that we have, we will continue to hunt down…like-minded individuals who delight in abusing children and will bring them to justice.”

Impact Arrows

Why this matters

The law regarding child porn is clear. As exhibited by Falte’s sentence, violations of child porn lead to severe statutory penalties with steep fines, and up to life imprisonment.

However, because of the sheer amount of child porn that exists on the internet, catching predators like Falte isn’t always easy. You can help Cochran and the PSF by reporting child porn to the proper authorities.

Related: How To Report Child Porn If You Or Someone You Know Sees It Online

Here are a few tips: if you find child porn on the internet, you can report the site address to your customs office, local or state FBI, or your internet service provider. A quick Google search will provide you with their contact info.

Remember, by reporting your encounter, you make it possible for those who exploit minors to be held accountable and those images taken from the internet. Every report counts.

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