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Irish web host ‘the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet’

Wed, 14th December 2016, 17:55

There’s a saying that the only bad news is no news. Nowhere does this adage seem truer than in the webhosting industry. Over the years many of the players have suffered crippling downtime and outages, data loss, or hacks one week, only to report an increase in their client base the next. Not so sure it’s going to work out as good for Eric Marques and his Dublin based Freedom Hosting

Eric Eoin Marques, 31, has lost his legal challenges against extradition to America to face charges that as owner and administrator of Freedom Hosting, he is alleged to be “the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet”.

Freedom Hosting was a provider of turnkey “Tor hidden service” sites that hide their geographic location behind layers of routing, and can be reached only over the Tor anonymity network. Tor hidden services are used by sites that need to evade surveillance or protect users’ privacy to an extraordinary degree – including human rights groups and journalists. But they also appeal to the criminal types including child-porn scum.

The FBI acknowledged during the Irish court hearing that it secretly took control of Freedom Hosting and utilized a custom malware designed to identify visitors. Freedom Hosting used servers from an unnamed commercial hosting provider in France, and paid for them from a bank account in Las Vegas. Although there was a lack of details on how the FBI took over the servers, the bureau was temporarily thwarted when Marques somehow regained access and changed the passwords, briefly locking out the FBI until it gained back control.

The court heard evidence that in excess of $1.5 million had passed through Marques’ bank accounts including large payments sent to accounts in Romania. At an earlier hearing when Marques applied for legal aid the court was told Marques had given €250,000 to his Romanian girlfriend, and spent the rest of his money on McDonald’s, escorts and petrol.

Marques has Irish and US citizenship and was arrested in Ireland after a warrant for his arrested was issued in the USA for distributing and promoting images of child abuse on the internet. Marques was fighting extradition.