FBI admitted attack against the Freedom Hosting

Pierluigi Paganini September 16, 2013

In an Irish court the FBI Supervisory Special Agent Donahue revealed that FBI had control of the Freedom Hosting company to investigate on child pornography.

FBI admitted publicly that the Bureau had compromised the Freedom Hosting, probably the most popular Tor hidden service operator company.

The news confirms the suspects raised after that a group of  Security researchers found a malicious script that takes advantage of a Firefox Zero-day to identify some users of the Tor anonymity network.

In an Irish court the FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brooke Donahue revealed that the FBI had control of the Freedom Hosting company to investigate on child pornography activities, Freedom Hosting was considered by US law enforcement the largest child porn facilitator on the planet.
FBI for its analysis exploited a Firefox Zero-day for Firefox 17 version that allowed it to track Tor users, it exploited a flaw in the Tor browser to implant a tracking cookie which fingerprinted suspects through a specific external server.

Mozilla confirmed the presence of the security vulnerability in Firefox 17 (MFSA 2013-53) , which is currently the extended support release (ESR) version of Firefox.

“Security researcher Nils reported that specially crafted web content using the onreadystatechange event and reloading of pages could sometimes cause a crash when unmapped memory is executed. This crash is potentially exploitable.”

The exploit is based on a Javascript that is a tiny Windows executable hidden in a variable dubbed “Magneto”. Magneto code looks up the victim’s Windows hostname and MAC address and sends the information back to the FBI Virginia server exposing the victims’s real IP address. The script sends back the data with a standard HTTP web request outside the Tor Network.

Firefox Zero-day against Anonymity

Eric Eoin Marques, the 28-year-old Irishman owner and operator of Freedom Hostingis now awaiting extradition to the US where he could face 100 years in prison on child pornography charges. The new details emerged in press reports from a Thursday bail hearing in Dublin, where Marques, 28, is fighting extradition to America on the above charges. He was denied bail for the second time since his arrest in July. According law enforcement Marques might reestablish contact with co-conspirators, and further complicate the FBI probe.

Freedom Hosting owner

Freedom Hosting hosted hundreds of discutible websites, many of them used to conduct illegal activities taking advantage of the anonymity provided by Tor network. Tor network contains in fact many services that are used by cyber criminals for money laundering, exchanging of child porn material, renting for hacking services and sale of drugs and weapons.
Freedom Hosting offers hosting services to hacking sites such as  HackBB and at least 550 servers throughout Europe that distributed child porn content.Donahue revealed that the Freedom Hosting  service hosted at least 100 child porn sites providing illegal content to thousands of users, and claimed Marques had visited some of the sites himself.

Eric Eoin Marques knew he hunted, apparently he already sent the earnings to his girlfriend over in Romania, the FBI is analyzing the Marques’s seized computer discovered that he had made inquiries about how to get a visa and entry into Russia, and residency and citizenship in the country.
Marques’s  made also searches for a US passport template and a US passport hologram star, probably he was planning an escape. In 2011 the group of hacktivist Anonymous also attached the F

reedom Hosting with a series of DDoS attacks after allegedly finding the firm hosted more that 90% of the child porn hidden services on the Tor network.

Court documents and FBI files released under the FOIA have described the CIPAV (Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier) as software the FBI can deliver through a browser exploit to gather information from the suspect’s machine and send it to on the server of the Bureau in Virginia.

The event is the confirmation that Tor network provides an extra layer of obfuscation but it must be clear it does not provide bulletproof online anonymity, various researches already that evidenced it.

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(Security Affairs – Tor, cybercrime, Freedom Hosting)

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