According to the public prosecutor of Hechingen and the Baden-Wuerttemberg State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA), a lengthy investigation led to the arrest of a suspected operator of a darknet child abuse (“child pornography”) forum. The press release revealed very little. It reads in a way that suggests the authorities, for the time being, want to keep other forum members in a state of disarray and confusion.
In the summer of 2017, investigators spotted a reference to a child pornography forum on the darknet, the press release explained. The authorities began to shift their focus to the spreading of child pornography on the darknet. The press release likely referred to Elysium, one of top 10 largest darknet child pornography forums in existence. Or was one of the top 10 until German authorities wrecked the site’s servers and arrested the site’s owner, simultaneously taking several forum members. Many of the suspects recently received prison sentences, and German police are capturing new suspects on a weekly basis.
However, this bust, it seems, involved yet another forum. The public prosecutor of Hechingen and the Baden-Wuerttemberg LKA reportedly investigated the case for months before catching a break. Alongside the police headquarters in Konstanz, LKA officials raided the apartment of a suspect in Sigmaringen, a town in the state of Baden-Württemberg. According to the press release, the investigation led to the discovery that the suspect may have been operating a darknet child pornography forum or service.
During the raid, the police seized 18 laptops and desktop computers, more than 30 hard drives, five cell phones, and numerous USB drives and other external storage mediums. The electronics are currently being examined by forensic investigators. The forum, the press release explained, died. Authorities pulled the plug on the server and removed the site from existence. Disappointingly, the press release did not name the site in question.
After the German Federal Police takedown of the child pornography forum Elysium, the majority of the darknet child pornography busts have involved Elysium members or moderators. However, given that the BKA arrested the Elysium owner and took down Elysium in 2017, this arrest involved a new (as in not Elysium) forum. Several large forums still exist. One, in particular, has recently crossed the one million member mark. Simultaneously, the site has changed .onion.market addresses four times, according to my source. The administrator has disappeared reappeared, and some of the forum members voiced concern for the site’s future. (Author note: I do not know the addresses, and the contact who monitors these sites is currently unreachable; I am unable to check which site the LKA removed—for the time being.)
Most other sites with some following, float around the 100,000 user mark. With that said, the authorities did not mention any major server setup in the suspect’s home, likely indicating that he hosted the site elsewhere or that he hosted only a small forum that required minimal resources.
The press release stated that this arrest had no connection to an Elysium-related arrest they announced only days before this press release, further decreasing the chances that the Sigmaringen suspect had any involvement in Elysium.