Technology

US authorities use bitcoin trail to break up large child porn website

U.S. authorities followed a bitcoin trail to break up what they described as one of the largest dark web child porn marketplaces.

Federal prosecutors have filed charges against a South Korean man, Jong Woo Son, who allegedly ran "Welcome to Video," which contained more than 200,000 videos displaying sexual acts involving children, toddlers and infants, NBC News reported, citing a criminal indictment unsealed Wednesday. 

Bloomberg reported that investigators were able to track down Son and the location of his "darknet" server by targeting users' bitcoin transactions.

Darknet involves encrypted online content that is not accessible through common search engines. 

"Our agency's ability to analyze the blockchain and de-anonymize Bitcoin transactions allowed for the identification of hundreds of predators around the world," Don Fort, chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, said, according to Bloomberg. "The scale of this crime is eye-popping and sickening."

The website, which was in operation from June 2015 to March 2018, handled 7,300 bitcoin transactions, translating to more than $730,000, according to NBC.

NBC also reported that authorities discovered that Son ran the site as he serves an 18-month prison sentence for being convicted of child pornography-related charges. He was indicted on federal child porn charges in August 2018, but the records were unsealed Wednesday.

More than 300 users of the website have been arrested in 11 countries, Bloomberg reported.

Users would use cryptocurrency to buy videos and could earn points for uploading new videos to the site or attracting new members, according to NBC News. 

NBC News identified five defendants, including a Washington, D.C., resident who downloaded more than 50 years of videos.

Outbrain