Freedom Hosting

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This defunct hosting site is not related to Freedom Hosting Pty Ltd, which is operating in Australia.[1]
Freedom Hosting
Freedom Hosting homepage
Type of site
Web hosting provider
Created byEric Eoin Marques
UsersHalf of all Tor sites.[2]
Written inPHP

Freedom Hosting is a defunct Tor specialist web hosting service that was established in 2008. At its height in August 2013, it was the largest Tor web host.[3]

Anonymous denial-of-service attack[edit]

In 2011, Anonymous launched Operation Darknet, an anti-child pornography effort against activities on the dark web. One of the largest sites, Lolita City, hosted by Freedom Hosting,[4] was Denial-of-service attacked (DDoS), and later had its member list leaked following a SQL injection attack, as was The Hidden Wiki which linked to it.[5]

Federal investigation[edit]

News reports linked a Firefox browser vulnerability to a United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operation targeting Freedom Hosting's owner, Eric Eoin Marques. In August 2013, it was discovered that the Firefox browsers in many older versions of the Tor Browser Bundle were vulnerable to a JavaScript attack, as NoScript was not enabled by default.[6] This attack was being exploited to send users' MAC and IP addresses and Windows computer names to the attackers.[7][8][9][self-published source?] The FBI acknowledged they were responsible for the attack in a September 12, 2013 court filing in Dublin;[10] further technical details from a training presentation leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the codename for the exploit was EgotisticalGiraffe.[11]

Marques was arrested in Ireland on August 1, 2013, on a provisional extradition warrant issued by a United States court on the 29th of July that year.[12][13] The FBI sought to extradite Marques to Maryland on four charges — distributing, conspiring to distribute, and advertising child pornography — as well as aiding and abetting advertising of child pornography. The warrant alleges that Marques was "the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet".[14][15] His attorneys fought for several years to prevent his extradition to the United States on the grounds that he had Asperger syndrome, and would not receive the appropriate care in a US prison, if extradited.[16][17] In December 2016, the Irish Court of Appeal ruled the extradition should proceed.[18] This was not the end of his appeal process, however, and his lawyers announced they would make a new appeal to the Supreme Court. This appeal was dismissed by the Irish Supreme Court on March 20, 2019.[19] Marques faced life in prison if tried and convicted in the United States.[20] On February 6, 2020, Marques pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to advertise child abuse images, as part of a plea agreement that would entail a prison term of 15 to 21 years.[21][22] On September 6, 2021, Marques was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment and ordered to forfeit over $154,000.[23][24]

Notable hosted sites[edit]

Proceeding site[edit]

Since Freedom Hosting was closed, a new organization, Freedom Hosting II was created, running 20 percent of all dark web sites.[28]


  1. ^ "Australian Business Registration Search". 17 January 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  2. ^ Almost Half of Tor sites compromised by FBI, E-hacking News, (August 04, 2013).
  3. ^ Howell O'Neill, Patrick (4 August 2013). "An in-depth guide to Freedom Hosting, the engine of the Dark Net". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  4. ^ Finklea, Kristin (7 July 2015). "Dark Web" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service: 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 October 2021. Retrieved 4 December 2021 – via University of North Texas Libraries. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Gallagher, Sean (4 August 2013). "Alleged Tor hidden service operator busted for child porn distribution". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  6. ^ "'Peeling back the layers of Tor with EgotisticalGiraffe' – read the document". Guardian. 4 October 2013.
  7. ^ Samson, Ted (5 August 2013). "Tor Browser Bundle for Windows users susceptible to info-stealing attack". InfoWorld. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  8. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (8 May 2013). "Feds Are Suspects in New Malware That Attacks Tor Anonymity". Wired. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  9. ^ Owen, Gareth. "FBI Malware Analysis". Archived from the original on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  10. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (13 September 2013). "FBI Admits It Controlled Tor Servers Behind Mass Malware Attack". Wired. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  11. ^ Schneier, Bruce (4 October 2013). "Attacking Tor: how the NSA targets users' online anonymity". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  12. ^ "US given 10 days to request extradition of child porn suspect". Irish Examiner. 8 August 2013.
  13. ^ O'Faolain, Aodhan; Managh, Ray (3 August 2013). "FBI says Irishman is baron of online child porn". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020.
  14. ^ Best, Jessica (21 January 2014). "Man branded 'largest facilitator of child porn on the planet' remanded in custody again". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  15. ^ Dingledine, Roger (5 August 2013). "Tor security advisory: Old Tor Browser Bundles vulnerable". Tor Project. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  16. ^ Smith, Lewis (11 May 2015). "Irish man fighting extradition to US over child abuse image charges has Asperger's syndrome, court hears". Independent. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  17. ^ O'Doherty, Caroline (2017-07-17). "The Irishman labelled the 'child porn kingpin'". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 7 November 2020. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  18. ^ "Man loses extradition challenge in child abuse images case". RTE News. 16 December 2016. Archived from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  19. ^ Reynolds, Paul (20 March 2019). "Man loses extradition appeal over pornography charges". RTE News. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019.
  20. ^ Aaron Rogan, Ruaidhrí Giblin, 'Dark web host' appeals against US extradition, The Times. December 20, 2016, Accessed March 21, 2017
  21. ^ "Man dubbed 'largest facilitator' of child abuse images pleads guilty". The Associated Press. February 6, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  22. ^ "Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography". 6 February 2020. Archived from the original on 12 January 2021.
  23. ^ Brodkin, Jon (16 September 2021). "Man once called world's "largest facilitator of child porn" sentenced to 27 years". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on 17 September 2021.
  24. ^ "Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison for Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography". 16 September 2021. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021.
  25. ^ "Child abuse sites on Tor compromised by malware". 5 August 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  26. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (27 January 2014). "If You Used This Secure Webmail Site, the FBI Has Your Inbox". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  27. ^ Howell O'Neill, Patrick (4 August 2013). "An in-depth guide to Freedom Hosting, the engine of the Dark Net". Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  28. ^ Cox, Joseph (February 4, 2017). "We Talked to the Hacker Who Took Down a Fifth of the Dark Web". Retrieved June 25, 2017.