The ‘dark web’ sites used by hackers to anonymously share information and perpetrate malicious activities may be getting a taste of their own medicine.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, a network of thousands of these dark web marketplaces was knocked offline by a massive cyberattack last week.
Cybersecurity and privacy specialists said the anonymous attack targeted a web-hosting provider named Freedom Hosting II, subsequently disabling nearly a fifth of the Dark Web as of Friday (Feb. 3).
Sarah Jamie Lewis, an independent security researcher and operator of the privacy-focused website Mascherari.press, told WSJ that the attackers also published a series of databases containing large amounts of the information available on Freedom Hosting II.
Freedom Hosting II was considered to be the largest hosting provider for anonymous websites, and the posted databases included information such as private messages between users and code from servers used to operate compromised computer networks.
“It’s the sort of classes of sites that you’d expect to want to have anonymity,” Troy Hunt, another independent security researcher, noted.
There is no public information available about who operates Freedom Hosting or how to contact them.
According to a global poll from market research company Ipsos last year, there’s increasing support to shut down Dark Web sites altogether in order to curb criminal activity.
The survey, which took into account 1,000 people across 24 countries, revealed that seven in 10 people believe the sites should be shut down in order to help law enforcement better track hackers and criminals who use the Dark Web to operate outside the law. These sites can only be accessed through certain browsers and have gained popularity since they promise the users anonymity.