Study: CP Generates Most Traffic to Hidden Sites on Tor Network

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — A new study by University of Portsmouth (U.K.) computer scientist Gareth Owen finds that of the computer connections to websites that are specifically designed to be untraceable through the so-called "Dark Web," the bulk are going to sites that host child pornography.

Owen's study says that more than four out of five Tor hidden services site visits were to online destinations with CP materials, representing more than five times as many as any of the other categories of content that he and his researchers found in their Dark Web survey.

Despite it supposedly being hidden, according to experts, the Dark Web might be up to 500 times the size of the open web — yet it is not reachable by standard search engines or nosey snoops — making an accurate estimation of its size virtually impossible.

 “Before we did this study, it was certainly my view that the dark net is a good thing,” Wired magazine quoted Owen as saying. “But it’s hampering the rights of children and creating a place where pedophiles can act with impunity.”

Over months, Owen and his team of researchers identified about 80,000 hidden sites on Tor, and most of them did not stay online for a long time.

Designed to allow users to surf the Internet anonymously, Tor seeks to hide surfing activities and locations from government agencies, corporations and others.

Although the number of sites containing images of CP is small, the traffic they generated — about 75 percent of all visits observed in the study — outnumbered that of other sites, Owen wrote.

However, he wrote that it is yet to be concluded that actual users were behind all the visits to CP sites.