Saying You Have An Open WiFi AP May Not Help You Beat Child Porn Charges

from the what-would-matlock-do dept

CNet had a slightly bizarre story Wednesday as part of their regular series looking at the intersection of technology and the judicial system. A federal appeals court recently rejected the appeal of a Texas man convicted on child-porn charges, who'd argued that the fact that he had an open WiFi access point that anybody could access made the original search warrant for his home invalid. There are some strange parts to this tale. The case began when a woman in New York reported getting some child porn sent to her over Yahoo Messenger, and the FBI traced the sender back to an IP address from Time Warner Cable in Austin, Texas. The ISP gave up the name on the account using that IP, and a search warrant for the account holder's house was executed, and child porn was found in the account holder's part of the house. The man argued that the warrant should be invalid because the open AP meant one of his roommates or somebody outside the house could have sent the images that sparked the investigation -- and indeed, the Yahoo account was registered under the name "Mr. Rob Ram", and one of the guy's roommates was named Robert Ramos.

While there would seem to be room for some doubt in all of this, the appeals court rightly noted that the level of proof needed for a warrant is much lower than that needed for a conviction, and the fact that child porn was sent from his IP is a reasonable basis to issue the search warrant. This case would appear to have some slight parallels to some of the RIAA's cases against file-sharers, where it simply goes after whoever holds the ISP account without making any effort to identify the actual copyright infringer. This idea of secondary liability isn't standing up for the RIAA, but it's a little different than what's being argued here. The charges against this man weren't based on what was sent from his ISP account; rather the FBI used that as the basis for an investigation that resulted in charges based on materials found in the guy's house. The RIAA, of course, doesn't really bother so much with the investigation part, preferring instead just to hit anybody they can with a lawsuit. One more twist to the child porn case: the guy entered a guilty plea to the charges, pending the outcome of this appeal. Arguing that you shouldn't have been caught, and not that you didn't do it, probably doesn't help your case much.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 1:35am

    while it sounds like he did actually do it, are they looking into his roommates? then again, if your downloading something as volatile as child porn, your probably not going to use your name, nor anything close. so mr. rob ram is probably the name he used cuz it was the first name he came up with at the time.

     

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  2.  
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    Paul, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 3:43am

    Well..

    "Nevertheless, the FBI did say it discovered CDs with child porn in Perez's area of the house. "

    Regardless of the warrant, they DID find him in possession of child porn. So even if it was his roommate that sent the child porn over yahoo, this scumbag still deserved to be caught.

     

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  3.  
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    Anon, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 3:44am

    access provisioning

    The real answer to problems such as this lies in getting 'owners' to secure their networks by providing them tools that are easy to use. Amazingports and FON are examples of good solutions that provide viable business models which allow hotspot owners to generate revenue by provisioning access and services while at the same time securing their networks.

     

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  4.  
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    AnonyMOUSE, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 3:54am

    How about this.. Linksys or one of the big companies should come up with a small client program that you run on each machine you want to give access to your router and that program in turn will register the MAC address of the remote machine with the Router Automatically. That way folks don't have to THINK about security..It's just done for them. Again...this won't encrypt the data but it should lock down the AP... ?
    Just a thought this early AM...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 4:18am

    Its all well and good...

    ...to give all these tips as to how the router companies can help to create more secure networks, but I doubt that this is the issue here. I doubt the guy would feel better if his network was secure and then had absolutely no way to try and get out of this. I doubt he was upset his router was insecure. He only mentioned it in the hopes he might be able to get cleared of the charges.

    The real question is whether or not his argument makes any sense. In my opinion, it doesn't. Its true that the amount of evidence to secure a search warrant is a lot less than whats needed to prove someone is guilty. So, I don't see any rules broken here.

     

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  6.  
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    Wyndle, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 6:36am

    Not everything is as it seems...

    While it is highly likely the guy is responsible for the email, there is another set of possibilities...

    The most likely alternate circumstance: His roommate borrowed a cd and found the child porn. Wanting to avoid confrontation he sends the porn on his roommates behalf to get him in trouble and then replaces the disk. This scenario explains a lot of holes in the story as well as backing up the scumbag's story.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 7:47am

    Re:

    That would work for PCs, but I also have 2 PDAs and a Wii that use my WAP.

     

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  8.  
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    Kingcomtech, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 9:53am

    Hang this weirdo

    child porn, guilty plea. That means we get to gas hin or something right?

     

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  9.  
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    Security, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 11:14am

    The AP isnnt the problem.

    Security causes configuration, configuration causes apathy. Any router made in the last 5 years can be secured but users wont do it because it is not convenient. I spent 3 years supporting end users with a router that came with security on by default and most of them wanted it off because it involved some sort of low level thought. Computer security is now better than it has ever been, unfortunately users are as "special" as they have ever been. No mater what you put in place your users will find a way to f it up. This guy is a perv and probably didn't lock down his network in case he got caught. now he has a built in defense. The story says they are not charging him for the transmission in which his argument may be valid, his charge is possession which he cant deny. As far as the warrant. Warrants are a formality and can be obtained on the word of a crack head so I think that weather open or closed transmission from a location probably gives probable cause, and if it was sent by a wardriving perv then no files will be found and they will let it go.

     

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  10.  
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    Chris, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 11:37am

    Re: The AP isnnt the problem.

    Couldn't have said it better.

    I can also attest that the average home user of any WiFi Router only wants to be responsible enough of just plugging the damn thing in. Anything else they might have to do it, even resetting it, can infuriate a great deal of people.

     

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  11.  
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    Censure, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 11:54am

    Possession is 9/10ths of the law...?Phrase

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 8:08pm

    Re:

    How about this.. Linksys or one of the big companies should come up with a small client program that you run on each machine you want to give access to your router and that program in turn will register the MAC address of the remote machine with the Router Automatically. That way folks don't have to THINK about security..It's just done for them. Again...this won't encrypt the data but it should lock down the AP... ?
    Just a thought this early AM...
    That's a bad idea because MAC address filtering isn't secure and a false sense of security is worse than no security.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Ron Larson, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 11:11pm

    Big difference between RIAA & Kiddi Porn

    The comparisons between the RIAA tactics and the tactics used in this case are wrong, wrong, wrong!

    The RIAA is investigating people so they can sue them in civil court for "damages". It is a part of a civil action between a private company and private citizen.

    The other is a criminal action between law enforcement and a private citizen. Law enforcement investigated this guy for the serious criminal violation of having kiddie porn.

    Not even in the same leage. You can't compare the tactics of the RIAA to investigate a civil complaint to the tactics of law enforcement to investigate child porn distribution, which is not legal to own in any way, shape, or form.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 3:28pm

    How To Get Rid Of Neigbour You Don't Like

    1. Connect to your neighbor's WiFi
    2. Send an IM with a link to CP
    3. Watch him arrested
    4. Repeat

     

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