The United States government has successfully removed one of the Internet’s largest child pornography websites, following a program that cracked security on a service that enables anonymous Internet browsing and site hosting.

Security expert Brian Krebs reports that United States authorities were able to explore software behind a site hosted by Tor, a service that lets users browse the Web anonymously by rerouting traffic requests across its network.

FBI

Access was supposedly made possible via a security vulnerability that was found within Mozilla’s Firefox 17 browser, released in November 2012 ,which firefox creator Mozilla is investigating.  In particular, Eric Eoin Marques, whom the FBI calls ”the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet,” was the amongst the targets. Marques is facing extradition to the US and the company he runs on the Tor Network, Freedom Hosting, disappeared following a take down by american authorities using the vulnerability found in Firefox. *(Note that the Tor Network is not affiliated with Freedom Hosting, or other sites that run on it, it simply provides a free space online.)

A post on the Tor Project blog said “around midnight on August 4th we were notified by a few people that a large number of hidden service addresses have disappeared from the Tor Network”.  The post further notes that “multiple hidden service hosting companies appears to be down”.  While bringing down child porn sites is undoubtedly outstanding good news for the Internet, there are a few issues; the fact that the FBI infiltrated a Tor Network site is a big deal, since it is commonly used by whistleblowers, media and activists that all seek online anonymity away from the gaze or reach of authorities.  That need has been particularly heightened with the recent revelations of the US Prism program and other cyber spying initiatives allegedly undertaken by governmental authorities.

The Tor Project post speculates that the site was accessed and rigged to identify visitors to Freedom Hosting: The breach was used to configure the server in a way that it injects some sort of javascript exploit in the web pages delivered to users, this exploit is used to load a malware payload to infect a user’s computer. The malware payload could be trying to exploit potential bugs in Firefox 17 ESR, on which our Tor Browser is based.

[Image via gizmodo]

SOURCE: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/08/05/mozilla-is-investigating-a-potential-security-vulnerability-within-firefox-17/