back to article FBI: We unmasked and collared child porn creep on Tor with spy tool

Dark-web deadbeats may not be as anonymous as they think. A bloke in the US was charged on Friday after FBI spyware caught him downloading child sex abuse material. Luis Escobosa, of Staten Island, admitted to Feds he broke federal child pornography laws by viewing depraved photos on a hidden Tor service. Unknown to Escobosa, …

  1. MrDamage

    Polygraph?

    After using high tech tools to collar the guy, they then give him a polygraph? May as well just get Madame Zeborski to read the tea leaves.

    1. James 51

      Re: Polygraph?

      Beat me too it. These aren't worth the paper they're written on. This aspect of vodoo crime fighting has always troubled me. The law enforcement officals who believe in it, even more. Just glad that they got the guy on some real evidence.

      1. Raumkraut

        Re: Polygraph?

        These aren't worth the paper they're written on. This aspect of vodoo crime fighting has always troubled me.

        Voodoo can be very powerful when the subject believes in it, and people have long been fed a diet of Hollywood polygraphs which work.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Polygraph?

        Its only just recently the FBI have given up using hair examinations as evidence. There are a lot of innocent people in US slave camps as a result.

        Well innocent of the crimes they are in for.

  2. s5PGmU
    Black Helicopters

    Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

    ...that it's possible to catch criminals without breaking encryption or violating the 4th Amendment?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

      Not if they kept Javascript/Flash disabled like it should be by default.

      1. Steven Roper

        Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

        "Not if they kept Javascript/Flash disabled like it should be by default."

        The problem is an increasing number of websites simply don't display anything other than a "This site requires Javascript / Flash enabled" message if you have Flash and Javascript disabled. For my part such a message simply guarantees that site doesn't get my custom, but a pedobear cruising for cheese pizza wouldn't have a whole lot of options in this area. And if the FBI site gave him a couple of tasters with the promise of a whole lot more if he enabled Javascript or Flash then pretty much any pedo would do it without hesitation.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Steven Roper

            Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

            "Somewhat unsettling twang of authenticity to that. Speaking from experience?"

            Takes one to know one. At least I put my name to my posts when I take a swipe at someone.

            1. ratfox

              Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

              It's a bit curious that he was able to display a gimp icon while posting as AC. Some kind of bug?

              1. Steven Roper

                Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

                Hmm, that is weird. I never noticed the icon, I suppose I've seen them all so many times on here that they no longer register (fnarr fnarr!)

                Just tested it and El Reg still have icon selection locked out if you select AC. And you can't call your account Anonymous Coward either. Must be a bug as you say...

                Edit: Also just noticed the AC has removed his post. So now I guess we'll never know!

                1. Sir Runcible Spoon

                  Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

                  i've seen someone do this before (use an icon with the AC handle) - no idea how it's done mind - not that bothered, but it's been possible for quite a while afaik.

                  1. ratfox

                    Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

                    The most likely explanation I can come up with is that Reg officials have a more powerful UI without such limits.

              2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

                Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

                > ...gimp icon while posting as AC. Some kind of bug?

                It's a commentard who knows how to "exploit" the fact the El Reg does not do the strictest kind of check (his own admission). I am unwilling to name the handle.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Steven Roper - "increasing number of websites simply don't display"

          I can get websites requiring Javascript, but websites requiring flash have become almost non-existent in the past few years, thanks in no small part to Steve Jobs refusal to let that malware live on iPhones. At the time the Android camp was outraged, but they should thank him for taking that stand (whatever you may think about his motives for taking it)

        3. RedCardinal

          Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

          I'm confused.

          How did they do this when (as far as I know), Tor Browser doesn't come with Adobe Flash Player (shockwave) installed? Did this guy actually install it as an add-on himself?

          Also, well done cops for revealing to everyone how you caught this guy! Any dodgy criminals (pedos or otherwise) reading will now change their shockwave settings so that your cunning plan won't work twice...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Could someone let Director James R. Clapper know...

      They know a hell of a lot mote about that than you. They know what crapto they pwn and have the infrastructure to effectively pwn it. Any and all raucous public protestations to the contrary are merely disinformation intended to subdue the plebs after that nasty Snowden man stirred them up.

      Wake up.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Optional

    Should have been using Tails.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My civil rights are like currency to exchange for safety

    so GREAT is my RAGE at quiet losers who view EXPLICIT 30-year old bathtub photos that I SURRENDER and YIELD any of my civil rights which NOBLE VIRTUOUS AUTHORITIES need to ENSURE THE SAFETY OF ALL THE CHILDRENS and so forth and such. BILLIONS of dollars are not too much to ask for. Childrens! Think of 'em! wharblegarblegarble

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My civil rights are like currency to exchange for safety

      ... now _that's_ genuinely funny ...

    2. Gray
      Windows

      Re: My civil rights are like currency to exchange for safety

      Pretty much says it all right there, doesn't it?

      (Now if the FBI could get as righteously and publicly outraged about the thousands of kids who disappear from the US each year.)

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        Re: My civil rights are like currency to exchange for safety

        > (Now if the FBI could get as righteously and publicly outraged about the thousands of kids who disappear from the US each year.)

        But that doesn't happen ON THE INTERNET!

        Truth to be told GrumpenPlods snap very much into action upon missing persons, even for decades. Rule here is: case dropped only when person would be dead of natural causes (that assumed at the age of 100 AFAIR). I sincerely hope this is true for the US as well.

  5. Mike 16 Silver badge

    How did he admit

    to unspeakable items?

    Sign Language?

    Charades. (Oh, lord, now _I need mind-bleach)

  6. RichardB

    Serious question here...

    How is it legal for a government agency to deliberately choose to distribute child pornography?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Serious question here...

      The law is at us citizen B, not them. Move along...

      1. Ole Juul

        Re: Serious question here...

        All of your laws are belong to US.

    2. Salamander

      Re: Serious question here...

      The American authorities are permitted to use entrapment. The UK authorities are NOT allowed to use entrapment.

      1. Keef

        Re: Serious question here...

        'The American authorities are permitted to use entrapment. The UK authorities are NOT allowed to use entrapment.'

        It's far more complicated than that, there are nuances that ensure the lawyers get paid.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Serious question here...

        Actually, they're not, which makes this report rather odd. I wouldn't be surprised if the case gets thrown out on a technicality, provided he has a good (read: expensive) attorney to ensure that it's made clear that the FBI were the ones running the entrapping site.

        What's going to be interesting is how the judge and attorneys argue out the logic of "whether it was an entrapping site or not, this individual was obviously not aware of that, and therefore had no reason to believe this was anything other than what it advertised itself as. That being the case, his actions are willful self-incriminations and the case will proceed.

        This is one case that may well test the 'use of entrapment' versus the 'use of criminal-seizures to further catch/shut-down a larger group as a whole in a wide scale sting op. But... again, that'll depend on whether the defense can pony up for a good attorney to press the matter, and even then, the case won't go well for the accused. The IRC logs, in and of themselves are damning, and on their own can make for strong enough supporting evidence of the state's case as to convince the jury that the thumbnail cache was not simply left over from a random-opening of a site from say, a listing of all tor addresses that don't necessarily include descriptors.... something else the community needs to work on to iron out issues surrounding that sort of thing.

    3. Old Handle

      Re: Serious question here...

      That's a really good question. What I can surmise from reading the news is that they won't initiate distributing child pornography (or at least never admit doing so) but when they find an existing site like this, they deem it acceptable to keep it running for a short time to catch the users... or one user anyway.

      It still strikes me as both ethically and legally suspect, though. Even if you don't think of it as the feds actually doing the distribution (which technically, it is) they intentionally allowed what they tell us is a horrible crime to continue for two additional weeks.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Why don't the FBI (and other 3 letter agencies) use their own servers and put them on Tor. Ideal for entrapping everyone in a standard dragnet/fishing for anything scenario. I'm sure they have a spare server or two lying around.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Devil

      "I'm sure they have a spare server or two lying around."

      If not, I'm sure Carly has a few to spare...

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/09/29/hp_supplied_nsa_snooping_fiorina/

  8. Bota

    I saw this documentary once

    About a pedo unit within the met police. Very difficult work indeed I imagine l. My idea would be:

    Pick a date, legalise everything up to that date

    The government would host this material which you could access after registering with them

    If you have x photos of x which aren't from the "official" list then very harsh penalties.

    The benefits of this system would be that the government could very easily locate people of that inclination (obviously not the Mps), and could offer them services like therapy etc . At the very least you're saving after massive number of hours to pursue those actually abusing kids, and not just looking at photos of them.

    Maybe it's too simple a solution?

    1. Crisp

      Re: I saw this documentary once

      The problem with that is the children in that material are real people just like you and me, and they might not want their documented abuse available for perverts to use.

      Would you want naked pictures of yourself available to perverts on a register?

      1. Bota

        Re: I saw this documentary once

        I totally understand and agree. However, what options are there where the police can actively find those who are making the material? I feel that those who are acting in this manner are worse offenders. It obviously isn't the "best" system but I think that a system is better than no system and due to amount of man hours saved it could really go into fighting this material being produced on UK shores (if that is the case).

        It's a really tough issue we face as a society but it didn't start with the Internet, but we could use it as as tool to highlight those who are into this sort of thing, and as I mentioned prior, offer therapy or other services.

        Apologises for spelling and grammar issues, using my phone.

      2. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: I saw this documentary once

        If it stopped small children being abused to create new images? Sure. Do you want video too?

        1. Bota

          Re: I saw this documentary once

          Neither interest me in the slightest, but if said system would help stop abuse then I'm all for it. Is it a "perfect system"? Of course not but what do you propose that could locate most pedos in the country with that efficiency?

  9. David Pollard

    The site had nearly 215,000 users

    Even with a proportion of users in different countries and only some of them accessing the site during the two weeks that the FBI ran it, didn't they collect tens of thousands of sets of details?

    1. Old Handle

      Re: The site had nearly 215,000 users

      Also the spyware would have only worked on some fraction of users, which may be small or large depending on how sophisticated it was, but still, it does seem like a poor success rate.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once again proving that the insane ramblings by "security" forces that they can't do their job because of encryption/anonymity services is garbage. Good work, good work indeed. Though they'll likely need a better mouse trap now.

  11. J Bourne
    Coat

    215,000 users - 2 weeks - one prosecution

    2 weeks of distributing child pornography by a US govt agency to 215,000 pervs - and only ONE prosecution???? walks away shaking head....

    1. e^iπ+1=0

      Re: 215,000 users - 2 weeks - one prosecution

      Hitherto.

  12. Youngdog

    I'm all for this...

    ...if I knew for a fact this tech would only be used to catch people like this. Unfortunately I know it won't be so I'm left with a feeling of ambivalence about this. Happy they caught him, worried they could.

  13. Graham Marsden
    Childcatcher

    Low hanging fruit...

    Meanwhile, amongst all the back-slapping and high-fiving, what gets lost is that this establishes a precedent by which the FBI et al can say "well you didn't object us doing this with kiddie porn, so that means it's ok to do it for other things too..."

  14. Martin Maloney
    Trollface

    Who are the real pervs?

    The downloaders or the uploaders?

    Is having legal unlimited access to kiddie porn a perk of being an FBI agent?

  15. Paul Smith
    Big Brother

    Bias?

    Dark-web deadbeats

    perverts

    unmasking the scumbag

    unspeakable images.

    nefarious purposes

    Rather emotive language, don't you think?

    Given that we are talking about a country that had a shit fit over Janet Jacksons left nipple, and given that the article implies that the FBI probably has details on over 200,000 TOR users from this site alone, I have to ask if the author is actually a shill for a US three letter outfit that would like to discourage the use of TOR and other secure communications services by any body except themselves.

    No more Arab Spring. No more Snowden. Of course it also means there could never be another Watergate.

    Yes kiddy fiddling is a very bad thing, but no, it is not worth giving up your right to a private life, or giving free reign to governments to dictate what they think is good for you.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Bias?

      I have to agree with Paul. Starting off an article insinuating that darkweb users are deadbeats is a little distasteful. And the cheap language that follows does not mix well with what could have been an article with good IT content. Perhaps if it had been posted in bootnotes, it would have been another matter.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weird init?

    Privacy is for chumps. The only reason you think it necessary is because this system pits you against everyone else. Collaboration and information exchange will be the future. When we break the scarcity paradigm. Think FOSS and community efforts like FB. Oh look! AC here... That proves my point....

    1. Paul Smith

      Re: Weird init?

      It is hard to know if you are being serious or facetious. Assuming for a moment that you are being serious, then you are completely entitled to your opinion and I agree that collaboration and information exchange are the future, but that is not mutually exclusive with respecting privacy. A simple example will explain my case: I want to buy a present for my wife, advertisers know my tastes and budgets as well as hers and so can suggest the perfect present. Cool, collaboration and exchange working well as I get what I want and they get a sale. But if the privacy of my transaction is not respected and she finds out about it before the day so ruining the surprise, then whoever betrayed that privacy will earn some serious negative reputation.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. godshatter

    wrong focus

    I would rather that the FBI spent more of their resources trying to root out the people that make these images and upload them than spending so much time and effort trying to go after those that view the images only. Both are bad, but one is an actual evil where people are abusing real kids.

  19. ArgumentumAdHominem

    A modern day witch hunt.

    A modern day witch hunt. Sending people to jail who did no harm to other. Simply for viewing a picture. It seems FBI have nothing better to do - apparently, all criminals who actually hurt other people have been caught.

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