‘World’s Largest’ Child Porn Site on Dark Web Taken Down Using Bitcoins

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Even after multiple crackdowns against the heinous crimes committed every day on the dark web, we’re still not even close to striking down the roots of these criminal networks. However, today was a particularly paramount day for justice as the U.S Department of Justice announced that it had shut down the world’s largest child-porn website on the dark web called Welcome to Video.

The website, which was operated by a 23-year-old South Korean was responsible for generating and distributing child sex abuse and other exploitative content. The 23-year-old Woo Son is already serving his sentence in South Korea. However, Son was not the only one involved as the website was absolutely massive and had the infrastructure to support over a million users.

Welcome to Video
US Attorney Jessie K. Liu announced the closure of Welcome to Video

Thankfully though, a total 337 Welcome to Video users were also simultaneously arrested in the U.S and 11 other countries. The officials also managed to rescue 23 children that were undergoing abuse for the website. However, the fascinating thing about this whole bust was that it was actually initiated with the help of a Bitcoin trail.

Child sex abusers were tracked down using Bitcoin trail

Welcome to Video’s main source of income was the membership fee that it charged using bitcoins. When users created an account on the website, they were given a bitcoin wallet address. So, while the website itself was running as a Tor hidden service, meaning that it’s host and location could not be easily tracked down, law enforcement agents found another way to find the culprits behind the operation.

The agents sent small amounts of bitcoin (around $150) to the Welcome to Video payment wallets. Since all of bitcoin transactions are visible and have a verifiable trail thanks to the blockchain, the agents could track the bitcoins in these wallets as they got transferred from one wallet to another.

So, they eventually found from a bitcoin exchange rate that the secondary wallet that the money was being transferred to indeed belonged to Son. In addition to that, they were also able to find his personal phone number, email number and, by tracking down the IP addresses for the website, his home address as well.

Welcome to Video

How big was Welcome to Video?

During the investigation, the officials managed to seize a whopping 8 terabytes of child porn videos. The scale of the whole Welcome to Video operation was totally unprecedented. Over 250,000 unique videos were found on the server inside Son’s residence, most of which had never been seen before.

In addition to that, the law enforcement agents also managed to map different user transactions with Welcome to Video wallets around the world with the help of a blockchain analysis firm called Chainalysis. According to the findings, Welcome to Video received around $353,000 in bitcoins from thousands of different transactions during the three year period that it was operational.

Since cryptocurrency exchanges in the US are required to collect customer information in order to verify their information, law enforcement was able to actually track down the culprits and put an end to this vile and disgusting network. While the use of Bitcoin is still widely regarded as malicious, the ability to track the whole trail of transactions via block chain is definitely helpful in such extreme scenarios.

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