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Published March 18, 2014, 10:46 PM

14 men arrested in underground porn website

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - While online safety is nothing new - it may surprise you how easy it is for criminals or even your children, to hide their tracks on the world wide web.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - While online safety is nothing new - it may surprise you how easy it is for criminals or even your children, to hide their tracks on the world wide web.

Tuesday, police arrested 14 men in an underground online child porn ring involving 251 children - 12 of the boys from North Dakota.

Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say some of the men, most of them now charged in Louisiana, pretended to be women in popular social networks in order to connect with the boys, ranging from three to 17 years old.

They'd convince the victims to share nude images through an underground, hidden website known as the TOR Network.

The case broke open because someone used the postal service to send a package to a child's home.

Tor Network (also known as The Onion Router) is a not-for-profit, volunteer project kick started by a group of people a few years ago - to provide online privacy. But some people are abusing it.

It's not necessarily a new way to browse the internet, but it can open a lot of hidden doors and disturbingly easy to access.

NDSU's Senior Security Analyst, Jeff Gimbel, explains the browser.

Jeff Gimbel- NDSU Senior Security Analyst: "There's a whole plethora of sites that are available to you if you were not using the regular world wide web."

The hidden online network works with one simple download.

It constantly sends your IP address from one TOR router to another every 5 to 10 minutes - allowing for anonymity and encrypting.

From there -"for example I can start up my TOR browser and I can be surfing in Afghanistan and Tehran. I could be surfing from Minneapolis/ St. Paul that's what authorities would see, I'm surfing too sites from."

Protecting Privacy - where you're sending you data to and from.

Gimbel: "It's what people do online that is the problem."

From ordering illegal drugs, prescription drugs, child porn...

Even hiring an assassin. Most of the exchanges online are done so with bitcoins - a digital currency and payment system - leaving no credit card or cash trail.

Gimbel: "This Tor network is growing really, really fast now with people trying to avoid the NSA snooping."

The in-depth browser is not foul proof. Gimbel says it could compromise some of your personal information.

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