back to article Hundreds charged in internet's biggest child-abuse swap-shop site bust: IP addy leak led cops to sys-op's home

US prosecutors say a South Korean man was behind the largest child-abuse image-swapping operation yet found on the internet. Uncle Sam's legal eagles today claimed Jong Woo Son, 23, was the administrator of the now-defunct "Welcome to Video" dark-web-hosted website frequented by hundreds if not thousands of perverts in the US …

  1. JimboSmith Silver badge

    Fantastic that they've locked up these scumbags and credit to all the people involved in the arrests etc. It's just tragic there will be more out there and as a result more victims.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is the kind of public expenditure of money that I can fully support.

      Abusing children is just about the worst crime imaginable in so many ways.

      1. Dave 32
        Pint

        Function of Government

        One of the legitimate functions of government is to protect those elements of society who are too weak to protect themselves. There's no doubt that children fall into this category. Well done, IRS guys and gals.

        Dave

  2. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Fair play to the authorities

    But the ending statement by the deputy AG is typical of the kneejerk reaction. It's NOT about 'you either hate TOR or you support paedophiles'. That kind of thinking is like using an asteroid to split an atom

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Fair play to the authorities

      And having (gag) read the indictment, one, I'm guilty of the same kneejerk reaction... seeing the end of the story i went for the internet freedom angle. No. In this case, while still valid, not appropriate. Two... I stick by the second point ...An asteroid's just right for those bastards

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Fair play to the authorities

      What I always find funny when some American official goes on an anti-TOR rant, is that the American government both created (through DARPA and the Navy intelligence branch), funded (and continue to do so), and encouraged the take up of TOR. The reason - it makes communication for undercover intelligence agents significantly easier. but only if lots of other people are using it to. they knew all along it would also be used by criminals, but decided that was unimportant.

      So going after TOR is basically going after US Intelligence. That should end well...

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Fair play to the authorities

        Blaming TOR is like blaming the Internet, telephones and post for the distribution of illegal material.

        TOR has its place, and, as you rightly say, it was an American Government/Military project with the goal of hiding communications for good reasons. Like any other technology, it can be misused.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Fair play to the authorities

        "American government both created (through DARPA and the Navy intelligence branch), funded (and continue to do so), and encouraged the take up of TOR."

        Urban myth alert.

        1. Wicked Witch

          Re: Fair play to the authorities

          The TOR foundation themselves say that research and development are funded by US Navy grants. They don't say it is navy intelligence, but I don't think i'm taking an excessively wild guess to suppose that it isn't being funded by the navy's entertainment officers.

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: Fair play to the authorities

            Then you REALLY don't know what all the Navy does for entertainment.

      3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Fair play to the authorities

        Except that as I understand it (from these pages???), the spooks have moved on from TOR. RF blind drops I believe are the rage.

    3. AVee

      Re: Fair play to the authorities

      I haven't completely made up my mind about this yet, but perhaps hidden sites shouldn't exist in TOR. Uses like this always seem to involve hidden sites, while the legitimate uses are generally about either direct communication, or access to information and far less about publishing.

      That makes sense, the bar for publishing content on the internet already is incredibly low. For pretty much anything there is a country where you can publish it and a hoster which will put it online for you. Once that is done users can still use TOR to access it. So TOR doesn't really seem to solve a big problem there.

      What hidden sites provide is a way to publish content that nobody in the entire world is willing to host (and admit to hosting it). It seems to me that this is a clear indication that the content universally is considered objectionable, and as such perhaps should not be facilitated by TOR.

      Don't get me wrong, I do support the general idea of TOR, to the extend that I run a relay. I also realize it's always going to be a trade-off between the benefits and the undesirable things it allows. I just have the impression that with hidden sites specifically the benefits are rather small and perhaps not worth it.

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth
        FAIL

        Re: Fair play to the authorities

        The bar for publishing is near impossible if you live under an authoritarian regime like China. Tor may not help much there, but don't make the mistake of thinking the free flow of info in some places is universal.

        Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say." - Edward Snowden

        1. Mike007

          Re: Fair play to the authorities

          Did snowden publish that quote from the USA, or did he just go to another country to say it?

          I believe the comment you were replying to was pointing out that if a chinese citizen wished to publish information criticising the government then using a server in the USA is probably a better idea than hosting a hidden service from your home address in china.

          1. AVee

            Re: Fair play to the authorities

            That's indeed one of the points. You can even use Tor to get your stuff from China to that server in the USA anonymously.

            But it goes beyond that, my main question is whether hidden sites solve a real problem or cause more misery than they are worth. Not Tor itself, just hidden sites. Because the above is possible, it seems they are not needed to get most information published. So it might be that the only 'added value' of hidden sites is to enable publishing things so unacceptable absolutely no-one anywhere in the world is willing to host it. As I said, I haven't made up my mind yet, so feel free to prove me wrong. But while a see enough legitimate uses of Tor to run a relay myself, I have a hard time figuring out what legitimate problem hidden sites to are solving.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Fair play to the authorities

        They seem to get caught frequently, and always by US authorities, never by anyone else. Maybe criminals shouldn't use a service that was funded by the US military?

  3. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Congraluations to the men and women in blue that worked hard to take down this network. After reading the indicments, I need to mention 2 things.

    Firstly El! Reg your warning about the charges (I've read quite a few) doesn't go far enough. Which leads to my next point. Considering the sick and depraved acts these individuals commited, either directly or indirectly, my hope is they are placed in a hole so deep they need to ship sunlight in to them by pack mule

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      "Firstly El! Reg your warning about the charges"

      Agreed, that document contains some highly explicit details; honestly it makes for a bad morning's read.

      El Reg, please make a much stronger warning.. this goes way beyond NSFW.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Next time someone complains about "trigger warnings" I'm going to point them to this. Everyone needs a warning sometimes.

        Personally I'm not going to read it, it sounds horrific.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
          Unhappy

          I don't normally head the warning on El Reg. I did this time - and it seems to have been a good call.

        2. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

          The problem is that putting content warnings on everything devalues them tremendously. If you put a trigger warning on The Great Gatsby because Mr. Gatsby suffers an untimely demise, that same warning is going to be taken less serious if it were to appear on a similar tale where somebody gets gored to death instead. Similarly, an NSFL warning shouldn't be thrown out willy-nilly lest somebody see it on this(which warrants it, from what's being said) and naively assume it's as meaningless as every other use.

  4. oldtaku
    Unhappy

    Bitcoin anonymity

    If there's one little ray of sunshine in this sickness it's that they caught the other guys because they were using bitcoin. I guess it really is good for something!

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Bitcoin anonymity

      yes, I noticed that too!!!

      From the article:

      " with the help of blockchain analytics outfit Chainalysis, track down the individual users who were behind the spread of this horrific content by tracing the flow of bitcoin from the site to various exchanges and wallets."

      And I thought that bitcoin's big appeal was a level of ANONYMITY and UNTRACEABILITY...

      REALITY and GOOD POLICE WORK *BURSTS* *CRIMS* *BUBBLES*

      (well done, cops!)

      1. ds6 Bronze badge
        FAIL

        Re: Bitcoin anonymity

        Anyone that ever said BTC was untraceable is just wrong. The whole point of the project was to create a decentralized, open, and free as in freedom currency. It's only as anonymous as the individual allows, i.e. if you make no attempt to hide your identity you will be easily found out. The blockchain is one giant ledger, providing proof of work for bitcoin mining and containing any and all transactions for every user.

        The only way to use it truly anonymously is to mine your own coins and never give out any personal information that can be linked back to your wallet address; since most people now use coin exchanges that require PII when you sign up, and coin mining has slowed down, that's next to impossible.

        The fact that all these dark web crims still use it is hilarious. The best part is there are coins out there that try to mask the identities of those involved by using cryptography to obscure parts of the ledger outside of individual transactions. Maybe that's why we really only hear about BTC involved in arrests...?

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Bitcoin anonymity

          You can use Bitcoin anonymously reasonably easily. Sure, the Bitcoin you initially buy will be traceable so the wallet you use when you purchase BTC with fiat currency is not anonymous. But you can create many BTC wallets on your PC (no need to use online bitcoin sites). You can then transfer the BTC you bought into one or more of those other wallets, and nobody will know (or at least could not prove) that the other wallets also belong to you. For all anyone knows you used the BTC you bought to buy goods or services from someone else. To make it more difficult to trace, you can transfer the BTC you originally purchased to your anonymous wallet via a bitcoin "mixing" service, which is the bitcoin equivalent of money-laundering (but at present is legal).

          1. ds6 Bronze badge

            Re: Bitcoin anonymity

            See:

            It's only as anonymous as the individual allows, i.e. if you make no attempt to hide your identity you will be easily found out.

            Of course, it is possible to obscure transactions and launder coins—and based on the article they may have tried to do so—but the point I was trying to make was that there are cryptocurrencies out there that are altogether better at it without the user having to do anything. Still the only completely untracable way is to remove any third parties and mine your own.

      2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Bitcoin anonymity

        So is Tor's. Don't burst an artery congratulating yourself on cleverly pointing out the irony, Bob. People are wrong about things all the time.

      3. SWCD

        Re: Bitcoin anonymity

        Why did you think that?

        Googling "bitcoin anonymous"..

        First hit.. bitcoin.org.. "Bitcoin is not anonymous.."

        Second hit.. buybitcoinworldwide.com.. "Bitcoin is pseudonymous. Achieving reasonable anonymity with Bitcoin can be quite complicated and perfect anonymity may be impossible."

        Seems all the info was there, you'd just missed it.

        1. ds6 Bronze badge

          Re: Bitcoin anonymity

          There is a common misconception that because most cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin are not managed by a central bank or controlled by a government that they are anonymous. I do believe that's the reason for our good friend bob's sarcasm. Or I could be way off the mark and bob's blown a gasket again.

  5. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Hopefully it'll dissuade people to use Bitcoin since it's now been publicly shown that easy to trace it. And should sound the death knoll for Libra (hopefully).

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      One of the "selling points" of Bitcoin was that ridiculous permanent record of all transactions ever called "the blockchain". Funny how these things work.

    2. poohbear

      I was actually wondering if this story had anything to do with the big money movers suddenly pulling out of Libra.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        poohbear,

        I don't think this has anything remotely to do with it. It's always been known that you could trace Bitcoin taransactions, that's the whole point of the Blockchain. You achieve anonymity by separating yourself from your Bitcoin wallet - which is quite hard to do unless you earn Bitcoin - as paying for them with a credit card is a dead giveaway...

        Anyway, the big payment companies are used to transactions being traceable, and used to cooperating with law enforcement.

        The reason that they're fleeing Libra, is that they don't want to be associated with failure - and Facebook.

        The financial regulators are showing an unhealthy interest, and seem to be very down on the idea, to a degree that surprised me. As there are ways to deal with the problems it creates financially. But I think it's partly because nobody trusts Facebook. And of course it's new. And all this, before the privacy regulators have even got out of the starting blocks - and they're really not going to like it. Because it's a fucking hideous idea in privacy terms

        So I think a tactical withdrawal, leaving Facebook to face the enemy fire - and then try again in a couple of years with a lead company more acceptable to governments.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glad the people they busted got busted, but this is a drop in the bucket

    I hate the way the media has been trumpeting this to the corners of the internet without crosschecking the claims. This is the same kind of low hanging fruit as the busts where they sit in chat rooms all day hoping to catch the one person dump enough to click on the link.

    They are hailing this as "the Internets biggest" abuse site, but don't list any user statistics, and only got some 300 charges and arrests. That means either thousands of uncharged users as in the Playpen bust from a few years back (with nearly three times the arrests, as reported in this very publication), or that this was a small fry operation. I have a feeling they are leaving that part out because it will take the shine off their High-Five victory lap. If it was, as it likely is, just one of a sea of black sites that provide access to this filth, this is a drop in the bucket. The pace and frequency of these busts aren't putting much of a dent in the problem. All that this case shows that one creep with a hard drive full of filth can jump start a site lie this almost over night.

    Catching idiots that use a service like Facebook with their real name, or as in this case, following the money, is absolutely work that needs to be done. That said letting the cops play this up as bigger than it is encourages them to just focus on the easy busts, which is what seems to be happening here. There aren't enough resources being brought to bear, and unless law enforcement changes the rules they operate by, co-operation with third parties is so difficult many organizations just don't bother. As a result the deeper layers of the distribution networks run for years between busts, and most of the buyers will never get called before a judge.

    It's still better than when I was still in the infosec/content filter game, when KP was still showing up in the yahoo image search. Most of that comes down to better participation in the service providers to screen for flagged material with NCMEC and similar groups. That also reduced the human toll on people who have to review this stuff on a daily basis.

    While the mental health issues of people who work as contractors for Facebook have been making headlines recently, the human cost for both law enforcement and civilians that have to work on this stuff has been a silent killer for years. I had to leave two previous jobs because of the mental toll of learning the real identities of an abuser, handing the issue over, and watching as the government failed to act on it. These are issues can and should be throwing resources at, because the human toll is enormous and can't easily be undone.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Glad the people they busted got busted, but this is a drop in the bucket

      TFA mentions "roughly one million Bitcoin wallets". So, to a back-of-the-envelope level of accuracy, I would take that as a first estimation of the total number of site users.

      I don't know how you infer that it was a small-fry operation, though. Those 337 could include most or all of the admin-level users and/or some of the bigger contributors.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: roughly one million Bitcoin wallets

        SOP for "clever" baddies is to split a wallet into loads of sub wallets because they read on the internet somewhere it keeps them safe from the police.

        I started looking into BTC and blockchain 8 years ago, and anonymity was the one feature I didn't ascribe to the tech. Not then, not now. Had a few people explaining to me how I was wrong too.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: roughly one million Bitcoin wallets

          "

          SOP for "clever" baddies is to split a wallet into loads of sub wallets because they read on the internet somewhere it keeps them safe from the police.

          "

          So explain why it doesn't. If you create additional wallet/s on your PC (as opposed to getting them from an online exchange), and then transfer the BTC you bought with your CC into that/those wallet/s, how could the police know that the wallet/s belong to you? Sure, the blockchain will show that bitcoin was transferred from wallet abc to wallet xyz, but the police can know only that wallet abc belongs to you, they cannot find who created or owns wallet xyz or where in the World it is located. If questioned you could (for example) claim to have paid up after a ransomware virus encrypted your files, and thus have no idea who owns the wallet you sent your BTC to.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Glad the people they busted got busted, but this is a drop in the bucket

        I also suspect the LEA's prioritized the arrests, ie going after the operators/organisers and where they'd identified kids at risk & being abused. I'd certainly prioritise going after the uploaders first, and then the downloaders. But a lot of data to analyse and paperwork to line up, and I'd bet that there'll be more arrests to follow.

        Good work by the LEA's though, and I hope they've got a good supply of brain floss.

  7. Cederic Silver badge

    poor choice of words

    "the [child porn] indictment is [..] graphic"

    Not clicking that link then.

    1. Mayday
      Boffin

      Re: poor choice of words

      It's pretty bad and well worth the warning.

      No images however the descriptions are horrible. Wish I didn't read it at all now, however I'm glad the pros that help put a stop to this can.

      I've got a friend who works for a "law enforcement agency" (wont say the jurisdiction or agency description), and one of their jobs is to help with this stuff. They need to view this material to assess it for prosecution purposes. The degree of severity of content is what is used here. It means they may need to view hours of footage and/or thousands of images for this purpose. I don't have the stomach for it myself, and like I said I'm glad they can.

      Curiously enough, they said once they are done they all go and play Tetris as it de-escalates it from their brain and can get on with other things. Playing an FPS just makes them more angry and want to kill etc. So during the day you'll see people playing Tetris at their desks to "chill out". I'm not a psychologist so I'm not sure how it works.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: poor choice of words

        yeah usually I am against 'the feds' but when... you incidentally click on an indictment... and it makes you go all authoritarian... yeah, the sick walk among us :\

        I have massive respect for your friend. Thank them for me please. For doing what we don't want to do :(

      2. Barry Rueger

        Re: poor choice of words

        Apparently Tetris is not enough, and some cops are developing PTSD as a result. The linked CBC story is but one such report.

      3. They call me Mr Nick

        Re: poor choice of words

        From what I have read Tetris seems to help with a single traumatic event. With the constant trauma of watching this stuff for whole working days at a time I would be surprised if anything helped. All respect to your friend. I am pretty sure I couldn't do it and would never want it to be put to the test.

        http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2017-03-28-tetris-used-prevent-post-traumatic-stress-symptoms

  8. Richard Boyce

    Blaming the tools

    I'm glad that these people have been caught. Despite the bluster about the size of the operation, I suspect it was just a tip of an evil iceberg.

    However, blaming Tor and Bitcoin is just blaming useful tools that the accusers have yet to make use of themselves, or cynically, because they know that the majority of listeners have yet to do so. The same people might have blamed the Internet a few years ago.

    1. Dave 32
      Coat

      Re: Blaming the tools

      Before Tor and the internet, there were instant cameras, and even film cameras, for the people who had a trusted developer (My brother worked, briefly, in a photo-development store, and would regularly turn over photographs of illegal activity to the police.). There were also camcorders which would make VHS tapes, which the criminals would swap/sell. Before the internet, there were people who would swap kiddie-porn on floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, USB flash sticks, and just about any other storage media you could imagine. The only difference the internet has made is that it's now possible to monitor/intercept those messages/transactions, thus leading to a greater ability to arrest those criminals. Yeah, Tor and Bitcoin may be a little harder to trace than in-the-clear connections/transactions, but, without them, the criminals would go back to the older, interception-proof methods, leaving the kids at risk. Or, they would develop their own methods of encryption/obfuscation, which may be even harder to break.

      Dave

      1. Wicked Witch

        Re: Blaming the tools

        >film cameras, for the people who had a trusted developer (My brother worked, briefly, in a photo-development store, and would regularly turn over photographs of illegal activity to the police.).

        So, was there one of them working there and these people just gave their films to the wrong person, or are there just far more brainless criminals out there than I'd previously assumed?

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Blaming the tools

          More like people not realizing that the workers actually see the photos in the first place. "Illegal" >>>> KP.

  9. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves...

    Things That Make You Go (cough)(bullshit) Hmm...

    The bulk of the funding for Tor's development has come from the federal government of the United States,[22] initially through the Office of Naval Research and DARPA.[23] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_(anonymity_network)

    1. Mark192

      Re: Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves...

      "The bulk of the funding for Tor's development has come from the federal government of the United States"

      I may have misread it but the article quoted deputy US attorney general Richard Downing as stating:

      "Society must decide whether [...] American taxpayers should fund them [anonymization services like Tor]

      My take is that those 23 children mentioned in the article as being saved wouldn't have been if it wasn't for the ability of the abusers to share content.

      I get that there's an argument that access to content makes viewers more likely to move on to abuse but I can't help but think those wanting to ban legit tools because they can be used to access these things are just thinking 'if I don't know about it, it's not happening'.

      Sorry, but it was happening well before the Internet came along and will continue to happen.

      The ban Tor brigade need to be going after the politicians that are still underfunding services that protect children, and at local government and police leaders that are still failing children through their inability to work effectively together.

      Oh, wait, they are the ban Tor brigade...

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves...

        The ban Tor brigade need to be going after the politicians that are still underfunding services that protect children, and at local government and police leaders that are still failing children through their inability to work effectively together.

        Keep in mind the American agency that went after these sons of bitches was the IRS, not the FBI. The primary function to the investigation concerned money laundering, not child abuse. The IRS catches a surprising number of crims where other branches fail. I have doubts about funding being the issue holding the various law enforcement agencies back from addressing serious crime; my feeling is that it is primarily an issue of the drive and initiative of the leadership of these groups.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves...

          "The IRS catches a surprising number of crims where other branches fail."

          The canonical example being Al Capone, of course. Always follow the money!

      2. vapourEyz

        Re: Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves...

        Amen !

        "The ban Tor brigade need to be going after the politicians that are still underfunding services that protect children, and at local government and police leaders that are still failing children through their inability to work effectively together."

        At a minimum.

  10. lglethal Silver badge
    WTF?

    Between June 2015 and March last year, the site is thought to have pocketed more than $370,000 in Bitcoin.

    Am i the only one that looks at that and is a bit shocked about how LOW that figure is? In 3,5 years they only earned $370k. $100k a year? For running a site, that is heavily going to attract law enforcement scrutiny, and if you're caught, is going to see you locked up for the rest of your life (and have an extremely bad time of it in jail when the other prisoners find out what you were up to - no one likes a paedophile). For a $100k a year? There are soooooo many other criminal schemes you could run which would net you the same (and more) and run far less risk - scams, spam, malware, fake banking sites, etc.

    Idiot must have been as into his product as his customers, in which case I hope they throw the book at him... (maybe not just the book. Throw the entire library at him as well...)

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Yep - I was thinking that was a bargain-basement price given the risks. Richard Huckle, for example. The worrying thing is that it might be an indication of supply/demand and there's just so much of this shit out there. :-/

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      OR - they haven't found the real money...

      1. The Mole

        OR they think getting access to all this porn is worth it, having people send it to you and any money earned is a bonus. Afterall we already know their thought processes aren't normal.

    3. Dave 32
      Coat

      Yeah, I thought that was awfully low, too. Given that they were charging .03 Bitcoin for access, and, given Bitcoin's current value of about US$8K, that equates to about US$240. So, dividing US$370K by US$240 gives about 1540 paying users. On the one hand, that seems like a lot. On the other hand, he had users from all over the world. On the third hand, I'm not sure if that .03Bt was for eternal access or was a yearly (monthly) subscription fee, in which case the number of paid users would be a lot less.

      Dave

      1. NotBob

        Per the indictment, .03 Btc was for 6 months of VIP access. There was also apparently an option to pay incrementally for points (they mention .02 BTC for 230 points).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves whether they are doing their part

    Sellers of weapons like US must ask themselves whether they are doing their part to protect children...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves whether they are doing their part

      Anon,

      You do realise that sellers of weapons do ask themselves those questions? We have regular political debats on the subject, export licensing schemes and regularly embargo sales of weapons to certain regimes. The EU has just announced a quick and dirty weapons sales embargo on Turkey for example, due to the attack on the Kurds in Northern Syria.

      Not that the system is perfect, or even close to it. But you'll notice the guy didn't say that Tor should be banned, but that there should be more thought on the subject.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves whether they are doing their part

        well, my guess is that people behind Tor have AT LEAST as much thought on the subject of their ideas being used in various ways, as the leading democratic governments who sell their weapons which happen to kill children around the world. So, preaching "more thought on the subject" by the biggest arms seller in the world just stinks of hypocrisy.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves

          "Your guess" based on what, exactly?

          With arms sales the danger is obvious, not just to experts or insiders but to everyone (read: voters). They've had no choice but to talk through all these issues thousands of times. (Which also explains why it's so hard to change their minds now.)

          With Tor, none of that is true. Most people have still never heard of it. It hasn't attracted anything like the same level of scrutiny or discussion.

      2. Ian 55

        Re: Operators of anonymization services like Tor must ask themselves..

        You do realise that the UK government has just admitted it approved illegal arms sales at least three separate times - stuff to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen - and expects more examples to turned up?

        There are rules for the arms trade, but they are treated more as guidelines and very flexible ones too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Profit from abuses

      Profit from abuse...profit from killing... Nothing but a flimsy, fabricated to help you sleep at night, difference between them.

      Cut it all out.

  12. John Mangan

    Last paragraph...

    ""Society must decide whether it will accept these lawless online spaces, whether American taxpayers should fund them, or whether we will instead demand that providers act to prioritize protecting children from online predators." ®"

    Perhaps if various 'state actors' weren't poring over everybody's data 24/7 fewer people would feel the need to use TOR and it would be even easier to trace these traffic flows. Just saying.

    I also declined to peruse the indictments and having read other commentards responses I'm glad I did. My total respect for those who not only have to view the indictments but also the evidence from which they arise.

  13. batfink Silver badge
    Pint

    Good work by the IRS

    Well done to that team for nabbing some of these scumbags - have a beer (or several) on me --------->

    Meh Tor/encryption blah blah blah. It would be better to outlaw roads, because the poor bloody victims of these retards will have been moved by road. Therefore roads facilitate these crimes and should be outlawed. I'll bet trrrrists use them too...

    OTOH - why the IRS? I thought that all of our fine Intelligence Agencies needed all this access in order to catch Bad Guys? If they're not catching Bad Guys, then we should be taking those powers away from them, and just giving it to the US IRS.

    1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

      Re: Good work by the IRS

      The IRS is only allowed to go after people who don't pay their taxes - if you properly declare your income, they aren't allowed to touch you even if you honestly list an illegal profession(though they're still subject to subpoena, so doing so is still idiotic).

    2. Wicked Witch

      Re: Good work by the IRS

      The rest of the crimes seem to have mostly been conducted by non-Americans outside America. Also, the BTC payments were the bit that was vulnerable and relatively easy to trace, at least before the South Korea police arrested the owner and grabbed the server (which would allow them to insert malware and hope for idiots).

  14. batfink Silver badge

    Let's see the arrests of the users then...

    "Hundreds if not thousands of users in the US" - and lots of other countries no doubt.

    So, why aren't we also seeing hundreds if not thousands of arrests then? I would have thought this to be a no-brainer. Too high a chance of politicians, judges etc being amongst them perhaps?

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Let's see the arrests of the users then...

      Assuming the users were using TOR, they'd need access to the server logs. Which they now have. Now it's a case of back-tracking those TOR requests. If you're not careful all you'll get is endpoints, which won't go down too well with the ACLU, EFF, and so on. It's hard work but I'm sure they'll find a few.

      1. Dave 32
        Pint

        Re: Let's see the arrests of the users then...

        One wonders why any miscreant who obtains/views illegal/immoral garbage like this would do so from an IP endpoint that they own? How much harder would it be to download the cr*p via an open internet connection (especially after spoofing their machine's MAC address)?

        That still wouldn't remove the Bitcoin connection to them, though.

        Dave

      2. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Let's see the arrests of the users then...

        Now it's a case of back-tracking those TOR requests. If you're not careful all you'll get is endpoints, which won't go down too well with the ACLU, EFF, and so on. It's hard work but I'm sure they'll find a few.

        They'll no doubt have Operation Ore at the back of their minds. If the Americans have passed evidence of British users to British Police, then they will be double- and triple-checking that information after they acted like a bunch of absolute amateurs in 1999-2000.

        After 2003 Operation Ore came under closer scrutiny, with police forces in the UK being criticised for their handling of the operation. The most common criticism was that they failed to determine whether or not the owners of credit cards in Landslide's database actually accessed any sites containing child porn, unlike in the US where it was determined in advance whether or not credit card subscribers had purchased child porn. Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell exposed these flaws in a series of articles in 2005 and 2007.

        ...

        Many of the charges at the Landslide affiliated sites were made using stolen credit card information, and the police arrested the real owners of the credit cards, not the viewers. Thousands of credit card charges were made where there was no access to a site, or access only to a dummy site. When the police checked, seven years after Operation Ore commenced, they found 54,348 occurrences of stolen credit card information in the Landslide database. The British police failed to provide this information to the defendants, and in some cases implied that they had checked and found no evidence of credit card fraud when no such check had been done. Because of the nature of the charges, children were removed from homes immediately. In the two years it took the police to determine that thousands had been falsely accused, over 100 children had been removed from their homes and denied any unsupervised time with their fathers. The arrests also led to an estimated 33 suicides by 2007.

        British Police have literal blood on their hands over their mishandling of the Operation Avalanche/Ore intelligence. They have the deeply unenviable job (for which I grant them the deepest respect and support) of acting quickly to protect children whilst also ensuring they don't swoop in and start calling people paedophiles (with the sort of "no smoke without fire" stain that follows such allegations and ruins lives) when there is significant uncertainty regarding endpoints and ownership/control of bitcoin wallets. If you're going to fling those sorts of allegations about, you need to be damn sure that you've collared the right person.

  15. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Thumb Up

    I have no intention of reading the indictment, just basking in the glow that there has been a small, if possibly (hopefully) important, victory against evil.

  16. ShortLegs

    An Police Officer acquaintance of mine once had to review the photographs of children found on a laptop, and grade them by severity 1-5. All 45,000 of them. It took him 3 days non-stop work.

    Not a job I could do. And most definitely not meet the accused, before or after the court appearance, and not refrain from stabbing the c*** in the face. How he managed not to I will never know.

    Total respect to those who work in this field.

  17. David 164

    Is Uncle Sam going to be telling itself off for inventing Tor in the first place?

  18. ManInTheBar

    Against stereotype

    Worth noting that this "service" was set up when the named individual behind it was only 19.

    19

    How had he gotten to the point where he no longer was held by social norms and thought he could do this? His acts of commission are horrible enough but his own personal corruption is deeply sad

  19. kmedcalf

    Don't tell William Barr

    Don't tell William Barr or any of the other backdoor encryption gang as it will put a spanner in their propaganda.

  20. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Great tools don't make good users

    The bigger picture (no pun intended) is that even if you are using tools such as TOR and Bitcoin, not understanding how you could still be leaking information is a problem. One stated issue was a misconfiguration of the server that divulged some IP addresses. If you try to make something idiot proof, the universe will introduce a much "better" idiot. I hope there will be a write up about how these people were caught in the same way as how the operator of The Silk Road tripped himself up.

    There are plenty of valid uses for TOR and Bitcoin. Some of them center on political repression, free-speech issues or people just wanting to keep their lives private. Criminals will use any tool they think will help them facilitate or cover up their crimes. You can't blame Ford when a bank robber uses one of their vehicles as a get away car. If a 500hp Mustang becomes the get away car of choice, it doesn't mean that the car itself is the problem and should be banned. With reasoning like that, the Man may start requiring anybody purchasing a car over 250hp pass a background check before they can take delivery. The only thing that would do is give politicians something to point at to show how they are "doing something" even if it is completely useless. Hmmmm, Politician. Completely useless. Is that too fat a target?

    Keep in mind that privacy in this day and age is precious. What little we can hang on to is a good thing. I buy stuff locally with cash and no rewards card so I don't wind up with profiles of me in big databases. Is that perfect? No, but it is a road block/speed bump. I don't fill my mobile with a bunch of apps nor do I leave data and wi-fi on when I'm not using them. When I have to fill out a form somewhere, I question every line I'm asked to fill out. If it doesn't seem appropriate to hand over some information, I leave the line blank. Yes, I had to walk out of a specialist doctor appointment once due to that. I questioned what they were asking and was told to just sign the bottom and they'd fill it out for me later. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Back to the GP for a referral someplace else. The young girl that told me to just sign couldn't see why that would be a problem. I should have asked her to put HER personal information on a piece of paper and sign the bottom for me with a large blank space above the signature line.

  21. Danny 2 Silver badge

    My worst week at work

    My employer was an imaging company trying for a NHS contract. My job was to scan in and digitise medical records that I still doubt I should have been able to see. And I had to view and read them to verify the accuracy. It was traumatic. It was all dead kids. Their X-Rays, their case history. I assume the NHS contact chose the worst files to digitise to scupper the contract. Five year olds with cancer. It floored me, but I did it.

    It made me realise two things, that I had led a sheltered and privileged life, and that the nurses who actually had to deal with these children deserved a far higher salary than mine. That was thirty years ago and I'm crying again. I can only sympathise with the under-paid workers dealing with sexual abuse content.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: My worst week at work

      A friend of mine was doing that sort of work in the states. The files of the deceased are usually the first to be imaged as they are no longer active cases. It's not a good use of space to have file cabinets full of the documents when they aren't likely going to ever be accessed again, but need to be maintained for legal purposes.

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