fbi-23-child-porn-websites

Short Bytes: Following the unsealed documents recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, it has been known that the FBI ran 23 child porn websites on the darknet. It is contrary to what was revealed earlier, that the FBI only hacked and hosted PlayPen for 13 days to catch pedophiles using NIT.

Earlier, it was known that FBI ran a child pornography website known as Playpen to track pedophiles.

The recently unsealed documents by the American Civil Liberties Union put light on the fact that FBI compromised 23 child porn websites on the Tor hidden services, commonly known as the darknet.

An affidavit, a part of the unsealed documents, hints that the FBI not only compromised the darknet websites but may have operated the same as a part of their investigation.

Here is a paragraph from the said affidavit which indicates the possibility of FBI operating those 23 websites:

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.

However, according to a cybercrime lawyer Fred Jennings, this doesn’t directly point in the direction that FBI operated the websites 1-23 themselves. But they were aware that these websites were hosted at a government facility, said Jennings referring to the “clever phrasing on [FBI’s] part.”

A statement issued by a FBI spokesperson doesn’t agree with what has been believed about the child porn hosting – other than PlayPen – done by the FBI. “I would refer you to public documents on the Playpen investigation, in which we seized and operated a darkweb child pornography site for a period of less than two weeks,” the spokesperson Christopher Allen told Ars Technica in an email.

“That was an extraordinary investigation, and to my knowledge may be the only time that has occurred. So to suggest this is a common thing is patently not true.”

FBI has deployed their Network Investigative Technique – also known as a good malware – on various darknet websites including PlayPen and the email service TorMail, both of which are defunct as of now. It might be possible that NIT would have been used on the one or more of the “websites 1-23” mentioned in the affidavit.

The use of NIT to catch child porn lovers is only a part of the superset – powered by the Rule 41 – FBI is trying to build which includes compromising any number of computers in the world after obtaining a single warrant from a court. Amended Rule 41 is expected to become effective by December 1, 2016, if the lawmakers fail to stop the proposed changes to it.

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