Huge global pedophile ring busted, officials say

After an investigation that dates back as least as far as 2009, Web server based in Holland hosting child pornography forum links 670 suspects, officials say.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills

Police have arrested 184 people accused of participating in what authorities are calling the largest global pedophile network ever uncovered--and more arrests are expected, Europol said today.

Authorities infiltrated an Internet child pornography forum that was the center of the network and had as many as 70,000 members at one time, Europol said in a statement. About 670 suspects and 230 children have been identified in the investigation, officials said, adding that the children have been "safeguarded."

The Web site, which has been taken down, was traced to a server in Holland in 2009. Europol got a copy of it and rebuilt it offline to conduct a forensic investigation and gather digital traces that would lead back to the members.

The site operated as a "discussion only" forum to protect members from prosecution. People would make contact on the site and then use e-mail to exchange photos and videos, which has been found on seized computers, according to Europol.

The scale of the operation "broke new ground," Peter Davies, a U.K. police chief who leads that country's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, told The Wall Street Journal. "These offenders felt anonymous, but everything they did online was tracked using the digital footprint."