Pastebin Cracking Down On Hackers
April 3, 2012

Pastebin Cracking Down On Hackers

After years of use and abuse by hackers, Pastebin is taking a stand by vowing to purge improper use from its servers.

The site was originally created in 2002 to host small amounts of text and was intended for programmers looking to store bits of code and configuration information. More recently, the site has been attracting activity from hacker collectives like Anonymous and LulzSec.

These hackers have used Pastebin for more dubious and often illegal purposes, including the dumping of personal information, passwords, and credit card details. The data dumps are then linked to Pastebin and promoted on Twitter.

Hacktivists have also used the site to test out the effectiveness of distributed denial of service (DDoS) mechanisms that are designed to take down a website.

“In the last three months not a single day has gone by that we didn't get some kind of DDoS attack," Jeroen Vader, the 28-year-old Dutch entrepreneur who bought the site two years ago after relying on it as a programmer, told BBC News. "I do hear from people in the hackers' community that many hackers like to test their DDOS skills on Pastebin."

Vader has vowed to take steps toward cleaning up the site and upgrade its systems for handling the over 1,200 daily abuse reports. Vader told the BBC he plans on hiring more staff that will proactively comb the site so that illicit text posts can be eliminated.

"I am looking to hire some extra people soon to monitor more of the website content, not just the items reported," he said. "Hopefully this will increase the speed in which we can remove sensitive information."

Vader´s latest statements reflect a change in attitude toward content on the site. In an October email exchange with the New York Times, he described a different attitude with respect to the content his site hosts.

"Usually we always remove DOX (personal information document) items, but this one got a lot of exposure and we usually don't remove very popular items unless we get a direct removal request from the authorities, which hasn't happened with the item in question," he wrote

Pastebin´s rising profile and souring reputation have placed the company under increased analysis from law enforcement. Critics of Pastebin have noted that the site´s banner advertisements allow the company to make money off of illegal activity, placing the website in the same category as other scrutinized content hosting sites like Megaupload and YouTube.

In addition to being a hacker haven, Pastebin was a key component in organizing a fledgling Occupy Wall Street movement. As evidenced on the site, many of the movement´s early tactics resembled those of hacktivists.

Personal information of police officials, supposed e-mail addresses of bank executives, or guides on spotting undercover officers were hosted on Pastebin. The site´s predilection for anonymity made for an ideal match for a movement the claimed to represent the “99 percent”. Posts of this material could be viewed by anyone with an internet connection and could not be traced to any single individual.