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World’s Largest Child Exploitation Site Shut After Bitcoin Analysis

Global investigators have traced Bitcoin payments to locate and shutdown the dark web’s largest child exploitation website, arrest hundreds of users and rescue dozens of abused children, according to unsealed court documents.

On March 5 2018, agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and Korean National Police arrested Jong Woo Son, 23, for operating the Welcome to Video site, according to the indictment.

The raid led to the seizure of round 8TB of child exploitation videos, and the arrest of over 300 alleged users of the site, believed to be the largest of its kind in terms of material stored. They hailed from the US, UK, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia, and have all been charged.

Some 23 children were also rescued from abuse by users of the site in the US, UK and Spain.

The vital intelligence behind the successful operation was generated by technology which enabled investigators to trace Bitcoin payments made by users of the site — each of whom had a unique cryptocurrency address assigned on registering an account, in order to buy videos.

The site is said to have had capacity for at least one million such addresses.

Investigators used a product known as Chainalysis Reactor to analyze the flow of digital funds to and from the site, via Bitcoin exchanges.

“Because exchanges typically perform Know Your Customer (KYC) processes, many were able to provide copies of identification, addresses, and other relevant transactions associated with those accounts,” explained Chainalysis.

“While in many cases the information supplied by the exchanges was enough to identify WTV users, in other cases IRS-CI was able to combine the account information with open source intelligence and standard investigative techniques to identify users.”

The firm was also able to break down regionally-specific information for investigators to enable global arrests, it said.

Son is already serving time in South Korea where he was convicted of charges relating to the dark web site.

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