The Onion Router (Tor) is a network used to provide anonymity online, by hiding from websites where you’re connecting from, and making it difficult to trace back who you are. How effective it is remains up for debate, but criminals love it.

The leading host of websites on the Tor network was taken down this week by hackers, and it turns out half of the content was child pornography!

In theory, the Tor network is a useful tool for foreign dissidents and others who want to protect themselves from hostiles. Unfortunately the tool has been primarily hijacked by people up to no good: drug dealers, child pornographers, botnet operators, terrorists, and other people we’d rather not help.

Freedom Hosting was a service that hosted child pornography sites on the Tor network, but was taken down and its Irish owner indicted in the US. Freedom Hosting II was a successor to that, and it was hosting the same kind of trash.

According to the attackers, who claim to be part of the “Anonymous” network:

We are disappointed… This is an excerpt from your front page ‘We have a zero tolerance policy to child pornography.’ – but what we found while searching through your server is more than 50% child porn…

The site is down. Now with the data from the server exposed, I’m hoping the child pornographers will be caught and… arrested.

Further, we as a nation should take a close look at the Tor network, and have a frank discussion over whether it’s something we need to tolerate going forward. When half the data on the leading Tor host was child pornography, it’s clear the Tor network is not doing enough self-policing.