A 28-year old man named Eric Eoin Marques was arrested in Dublin, Ireland this weekend. His crime: The Irish Independent reports that one FBI agent described him as “the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet.”
Tech blog Naked Security has alleged that Marques "owned and operated" Freedom Hosting, an anonymous website hosting service that hosts half the hidden services on the Tor network. Both senders and receivers of information keep their identities secret by using the Internet software Tor, which reroutes traffic to protect anonymity.
Freedom Housing has been implicated in several illegal web activities -- including hosting sites for buying and selling drugs and disseminating child pornography, the Guardian reports. The FBI is seeking Marques' extradition for the dissemination of child porn via the web, among other charges, according to the Irish Independent.
Now that Marques is in custody, Ars Technica confirmed that pages hosted by Freedom Hosting are no longer reachable via Tor.
Tech Week Europe reports that before Freedom Hosting was taken down, a number of websites hosted by Freedom Hosting distributed malware to the computers of Tor users. New York City security expert Vlad Tsyrklevich alleged on his website that the malware was set up by law enforcement agencies -- and the identities of Tor users may have been revealed to law enforcement.
The privacy implications of this could be fairly ominous. The Tor Network is also used by dissenters and activists in countries with censored Internet. Tor can also be a key asset for whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.
Freedom Hosting also hosts a number of innocuous sites, including popular encrypted email service Tormail.
FBI spokeswoman Jennifer Shearer told The Huffington Post on Monday that an individual had been arrested "as part of an ongoing criminal investigation," but wouldn't provide further comment.