The FBI likely ran nearly half the child porn sites on the dark web in 2016

https://thenextweb.com/security/2016/11/11/the-fbi-likely-ran-nearly-half-the-child-porn-sites-on-the-dark-web-in-2016/

The FBI likely ran nearly half the child porn sites on the dark web in 2016

by BRYAN CLARK — Nov 11, 2016 in SECURITY

The FBI likely ran nearly half the child porn sites on the dark web in 2016

Credit: Andrey VP/Shutterstock

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Earlier this year we brought you an in-depth exposé of how, for 12 days in February and March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran the world’s largest child porn site, Playpen. According to newly unsealed documents, Playpen wasn’t the only site containing child pornography on FBI servers.

The piece above can handle the in-depth explaining (if you’re interested), but it went down like this: the FBI seized the site, ran it on government servers for 13 days and attempted to ensnare pedophiles through malware. The malware, known in law enforcement as a “network investigative technique” (NIT), tried to infiltrate layers of security TOR users employ when accessing the dark web. In at least a few cases, it worked.Volume 0%00:0003:10 Have you heard of Hard Fork Summit?TNW’s finance, blockchain, and business event is coming up soonFIND OUT MORE

According to an FBI affidavit:

In the normal course of the operation of a web site, a user sends “request data” to the web site in order to access that site. While Websites 1-23 operate at a government facility, such request data associated with a user’s actions on Websites 1-23 will be collected. That data collection is not a function of the NIT. Such request data can be paired with data collected by the NIT, however, in order to attempt to identify a particular user and to determine that particular user’s actions on Websites 1-23.

Put simply, “websites 1-23” were operated at a government facility for an undefined period in an attempt to snag potential child predators.

Sarah Jamie Lewis, a security researcher, told Ars Technica: “it’s a pretty reasonable assumption” that the FBI was, at one point, running nearly half of all known child porn sites hosted on Tor-hidden services. Lewis runs OnionScan, an analysis tool that uses bots to map out the dark web and look for vulnerabilities. She began her researching in April of this year, and as of August, she’s mapped 29 unique child porn-related sites on Tor-hidden servers.

The issue — aside from the FBI’s above-the-law approach at investigation — is the use of a single warrant to hack thousands of computers. The Playpen investigation netted some 1,300 unique internet protocol (IP) addresses. Of these, fewer than 100 cases made their way to court, and judges in Iowa, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma ruled that the FBI’s investigation techniques violated current laws of federal procedure.

Other judges have taken issue with the unlawful search but failed to go as far as suppressing the evidence collected.

While no one would argue that child sex abuse is among the vilest of possible crimes, law enforcement’s handling of the matter is equally disturbing. The perpetuation of child sex abuse by allowing these sites to continue operating is akin to victimizing the child all over again under the guise of an investigation.

In a world bound by law and governed by order, there’s no side-stepping the issue: the FBI is committing the same crime as the criminals it’s putting behind bars. In the end, you have to attempt to reconcile whether the action of facilitating child sex abuse is worth the means — the capture of 100 alleged pedophiles.

Along the way you’ll have to ask yourself if an agency designed to uphold the law is warranted in breaking it.

We’ve reached out to our FBI contacts for comment and will update if needed.

FBI operated 23 Tor-hidden child porn sites, deployed malware from them on Ars Technica

Read next: Facebook puts a stop to race-targeted advertising for housing, credit, or employmentTECH

One thought on “The FBI likely ran nearly half the child porn sites on the dark web in 2016

  1. There is no likely. They DID do it by admittance from one of their agents. This is really sickening. You mjust be thinking good. Well, stop and think that these kids are being victimized over, and over, and over, and over again. Innocent people are being arrested, charged, and convicted because who wants to defend a (accused, not convicted) pedophile? Even though they have been told to stop this by Congress and SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States) they continue to revictimize the most innocent and commit entrapment just so they can pat themselves on the back and say “look at we have done. We got these creeps of the streets.”

    How about the site Mocospace (yes it is still running) where they purposely sent pics of nude children to random peoples’ accounts then turned around and arrested them and were caught doing it. In fact, it was found out that the FBI ran Mocospace secretly. This happened to a friend of mine. When he first got charged his public defender ripped apart the FBI agent and had her so mad her face was beet red. Questions like “Did my client ever knowingly and purposely download or upload any pics of nude children to his account” were an angry no and questions like “Did my client try to delete these pictures upon noticing them on his account” was an angry yes had the judge pissed. The judge even went as far as to hint that my friend should have an evidentiary hearing IMMEDUATELY, but because of his fear of his mother finding out and lack of proper representation and counsel he said no. Another mistake he made was to get it transferred from his home town to Memphis, one of the crookedest cities in the U.S. and where the agent that busted him was stationed. This wound up him being threatened, harassed, and scared into a plea of guilty by his public defender, the FBI, and the judge. He is now a violent sex offender (distribution and possession) for a nonviolent crime (possession) that the FBI committed. Luckily he is going back home where his crime is nonviolent and he is a Tier I instead of a Tier III.

    When will this end? When will the true victims find justice and quit being revictimized over and over just for one more arrest?

    Like

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