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Sorry, Anonymous: Pastebin to crack down on ‘sensitive material’ leaks

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Pastebin.com is about to lose its cool. The online text repository, a tool often used by Anonymous and other hackers to leak data, is preparing to crackdown on “sensitive material” posted to the site. According to the BBC, Pastebin’s owner is preparing to hire a team tasked with monitoring what types of information is spread through the site.

“I am looking to hire some extra people soon to monitor more of the website content, not just the items reported,” said Jeroen Vader, a Dutch entrepreneur who purchased Pastebin in 2010, in an interview with the BBC. “Hopefully this will increase the speed in which we can remove sensitive information.”

Launched a little over eight years ago, Pastebin currently enjoys around 17 million unique visitors per month. That’s up from 10 million in October of last year. Much of this boom in traffic comes from use by Anonymous and affiliate groups (like AntiSec and LulzSec), which have used the site for some of their most infamous leaks. Recent posts on Pastebin include emails from private intelligence firm Stratfor, and the account information of millions of YouPorn users. Posting sensitive information is far from Pastebin’s only use, however; programmers and software developers have long used the site and others like it to post long blocks of code.

In addition to its use as a way to leak massive amounts of data, Pastebin has also become a popular choice as a Twitter extension. When Twitter users want to post more than just the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, they often continue their post on Pastebin, and include a link to the rest on the post in a tweet.

Pastebin’s popularity boom is far from a pure positive. First, the site has increasingly become a favorite target for hackers testing out their distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Last August, Anonymous reportedly tested out its DDoS tool, nicknamed the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC). And Vader says that, over the past three months, “not a single day has gone by that we didn’t get some kind of DDoS.”

Its rising profile also makes the site a more popular target for law enforcement. Like Megaupload and countless other sites whose content rides the legal line, Pastebin makes its money off of advertising. It’s not much of a stretch then to imagine a crackdown on the site for “making money off of illegal activity,” as so many sites before it have been accused.

Regardless, the spread of confidential information is not going to stop. There are dozens of other sites like Pastebin online. If Pastebin decides to clean up its act, another will simply swoop in an take its place.

Update: At least one Anonymous-affiliated Twitter account (@AnonOpsSweden) is urging fellow Anons to use PasteBay.net as the new go-to leak site. Whether or not PasteBay will replace Pastebin remains to be seen.

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