FBI's NIT Hit 8,000 Computers In 120 Countries… As Did The Child Porn It Was Redistributing

from the any-means-necessary dept

On the other hand, who needs to wait for the Rule 41 changes to kick in?

In January, Motherboard reported on the FBI’s “unprecedented” hacking operation, in which the agency, using a single warrant, deployed malware to over one thousand alleged visitors of a dark web child pornography site. Now, it has emerged that the campaign was actually an order of magnitude larger.

In all, the FBI obtained over 8,000 IP addresses, and hacked computers in 120 different countries, according to a transcript from a recent evidentiary hearing in a related case.

No need to sit back and wait for the DOJ’s proposed Rule 41 changes — including the stripping of jurisdictional limitations for search warrants — to default their way into adoption on December 1st. This worldwide search, performed under the authority of a single warrant issued by a single judge in Virginia, is just the FBI acting first and asking for forgiveness codification later. From the day two transcript [PDF]:

Every time Your Honor grants a discovery request and we get new information, it’s like — to use an appropriate metaphor, like peeling an onion. There’s just another layer of fact there that we did not know about. I mean, we did not know this was a truly global warrant before. There are 120 countries and territories listed outside the United States that the FBI hacked into, and they also hacked into something called a “satellite provider.” So now we are into outer space as well.

It’s not just the hacking of computers around the world. It’s also the FBI’s brief stint as perhaps the world’s largest distributor of child porn. From the day one transcript [PDF]:

Your Honor, starting with Michaud, and what we know now is there was no discussion of trying to limit the distribution. There were no protocols for these agents for handling or limiting the distribution of child pornography. And the scale of the distribution now went out to at least 120 countries, at least 1 million images. And it is absolutely mind boggling, we have not seen something like this.

And for all the area covered by the investigation — the number of computers scattered all over the world the FBI sent its NIT to — there, so far, seems to be very little to show for the agency’s efforts. Defense lawyer Colin Fieman:

We have never, in our nation’s history as far as I can tell, seen a warrant so utterly sweeping. 100,000 potential targets. Something like 8700 IP addresses captured. At least 1152 open investigations. And now oddly enough only, about 214 arrests.

[…]

What’s even more disturbing, even if they disagree about the efficacy of some of those methods, we now know from Agent Alfin’s recent testimony which we cited, there was absolutely no discussion at the Department of Justice or the FBI about protocols in terms of handling this stuff or whether these methods of limiting, at least limiting the most egregious distribution were viable. Nobody cared.

Fieman quotes an earlier case dealing with the FBI’s physical distribution of child porn in hopes of netting some arrests. The FBI actually created a child porn “catalog,” mailed it to sting targets, and sent the targets the child porn they requested. The court in that case was not happy with the FBI’s actions.

The Court took it upon itself to make these statements, because they were so troubled by it. So first they start “we are aware of the necessity of such tactics” — in terms of undercover operations and baiting with contraband — “we are aware of the necessity of such tactics in so-called victimless crimes such as drug offenses, but the use of these methods when victims are actually harmed” — and they are talking about the children depicted in these images — “is inexplicable.”

And “moreover” — this is again Sherman, continuing with the quote from 549 — “the government’s dissemination of the pornographic materials could hardly be described as a ‘controlled’ delivery.” Well, if it’s not a controlled delivery where they were able to send it to the defendant and it sat in his house, I think for a period of time, several weeks, and they recovered it ultimately, the scale of lack of control and heedless distribution in this case is mind boggling.

Fieman goes on to point out that on top of ignoring Rule 41 restrictions, on top of acting as child porn distribution kingpins, the FBI’s prized NIT could have been delivered and executed without the collateral damage caused by the redistribution of illegal pornographic images.

One of the very troubling things here, as you know from the NIT warrant, the authorization allowed the FBI to deploy the NIT and complete their searches in a matter of a fraction of a second, at the time the targets landed on the home page. So they had authorization to collect all the information they wanted before anybody actually got the content…

Instead, the government kept the site live and not only distributed what was already hosted there, but allowed users to upload new images to be shared and redistributed.

[I] don’t know the exact quantity, because all we know from the disclosure is 43 new series [of photos/videos]. But during just that window of time that the FBI was running this site, 43 new series. That means things that haven’t been seen from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children were launched onto, uploaded with the assistance of the FBI through their file hosting feature, onto the site, and have now circulated globally and will never be recovered.

So, not only was the FBI unconcerned about Rule 41, but it was also not that worried that it would be contributing to the world’s child porn problem during its investigation. And, it should be pointed out that this is the second time the FBI has seized a child porn site only to keep it running. It did the same thing back in 2012, but that one flew almost entirely underneath the judicial radar.



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Comments on “FBI's NIT Hit 8,000 Computers In 120 Countries… As Did The Child Porn It Was Redistributing”

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34 Comments
Anomalous Cowherd says:

Same FBI?

So, is this the same FBI which interfered in a presidential election by making premature statements on the remote possibility that there were some e-mails of Hillary Clinton on a laptop they were ostensibly examining in a totally different case, just two weeks before the polls opened?

Is this the same FBI which was warned before 9-11 that there were foreign citizens taking flight training who were only interested in level flight, but not takeoff and landing?

Is this the same FBI which uses entrapment to jail dumbass losers who couldn’t light a firecracker without assistance while claiming to halt a terrorist attack?

Is this the same FBI which – under J. Edgar Hoover – used to concentrate their efforts on the low-hanging fruit of interstate auto theft to get better arrest numbers for congressional propaganda, while ignoring more serious but more time-demanding crimes?

And now they are distributing child pornography?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Anonymous Coward says:

So which is worse — the FBI running a child porn site and serving up child porn to pedophiles, or the ATF running a gun smuggling operation and serving up military weaponry to Mexican drug gangs?

It’s a tough call, but either way, if an ordinary person (not a U.S. government agent) had been caught doing this, it would result in many years, if not decades, in prison.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So which is worse — the FBI running a child porn site and serving up child porn to pedophiles, or the ATF running a gun smuggling operation and serving up military weaponry to Mexican drug gangs?

The FBI and ATF are probably scheming on some way to join forces on a joint operation to combine both. They’ll probably call it something like “Homerun!”.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am not condoning the actions of the ATF, however there is a world of difference.

The legal and moral arguments behind making the distribution of even known, decades old images of child porn is that even tho the act of making the porn has passed, therefore the initial crime has been done, there is continuing harm to the victim even after that initial act. There is continuing emotional distress to the victim of having the porn distributed. It’s mere existence is a harm to the victim. And each time it is distributed or re-distributed, another harm is inflicted on the victim.

However, selling guns only creates a victim if the guns are actually used. Same with drugs. The product can be sold/given to the targets, then re-claimed later in a raid of some sort, and as long as the product hasn’t been further distributed or used (the drugs are still there, the weapons are still there and haven’t been used etc.), then there has been no harm created.

So the drugs/guns only potentially creates victims, however there is a chance to re-claim it without creating any victims. But with child porn this cannot be said, distributing it creates or further harms the victims.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And to think..

“That all the corps that have Videos and cartoons, and so forth LOCK down all their data based on region codes..we cant even watch anything in canada..”

The FBI apologizes for a misuse of the copyrighted porn, and will henceforth incorporate region codes into all future malware. You can expect French-encoded porn on your phone within 48 hours, and the FBI has also negotiated zero-data-usage plans for all Canadian “customers”.

BTW, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon RCMP sends his greetings and would like to stop by and say ‘hi’ — at your convenience, of course.

Daydream says:

How did they get the malware onto the computers?

I’m more concerned about *how* they managed to hack into these thousands of computers in 120 different countries.

As I understand it, they used this NIT thing to put child porn on computers; what’s stopping someone from using it for worse purposes?
Use it to get ransomware onto a computer. Get a keylogger or such on to steal passwords for internet banking. Put lots of child porn and other illegal stuff on there and blackmail whoever owns the computer unless they cooperate. Use some innocent person’s bank accounts to launder money. Get access to computer controlled drones and steal them.

How exactly does this FBI malware get onto computers and how can it be removed or blocked?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Gee one gets to use the cliche…

Won’t someone think of the children?
Every one at FBI & up who signed off on this needs to be prosecuted. The conspired to create & distribute child porn.
Period, full stop.

This can’t be swept up in the typical the ends justify the means. A child was abused & they did nothing to stop it or investigate it. They just wanted the headline of a huge number of indictments. Of course many of those cases are falling apart & the ‘accused’ pedophiles will end up getting off. They broke the law for a really good reason, lets remind them breaking the law actually has penalties.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Where are the international arrest warrants?

So, let me get this straight.

Assuming the warrant is upheld, it should give immunity to the FBI agents from US-based legal consequences.

However, a US-based warrant is not valid in other countries.

Therefore we have a group of people who are known to have distributed child pornography in 120 foreign countries/territories for 10(?) days. We (or at least the courts/FBI if the actual agents names who were involved has been kept confidential) know who they are. They have admitted in court filings to have distributed child pornography. Therefore there is no question of fact as to who has distributed child pornography to those 120 countries for that period.

Surely the authorities of those countries should be issuing arrest warrants, international arrest warrants, for those FBI agents/staff who conducted this operation?

I mean, the Swedish authorities issued an international arrest warrant for questioning on suspicion of rape (Asange), but here we know for a fact of people distributing child pornography to 120 countries, over 8000 IP addresses, for 10 days?

Anonymous Source says:

URGENT : Plant Malware to End Risky Criminal Hunting

Law enforcement has entered its own agricultural age. Plant seeds (Porn) into peoples’ computers, water the computers using malware, and arrest the harvest after they’ve grown into terabytes of evidence, or immediately if you’re impatient.

Don’t search for criminals. Manufacture crime instead! You can always catch easy criminals you are growing in your own backyard! Why should you find dangerous criminals outside when we can produce criminals out of anyone we find annoying?

Anonymous Coward says:

We’re living in a world were the bad guys are the bad guys, and the good guys are the bad guys

Limitations on what a government can do, in order to stop one from abusing the authority GRANTED to them by the people

It feels like their pushing the bar in order to find out how much they can get away with……..while fundemetally changing the dynamic of the people and its government, getting away with it by assuming the “good” guys, and the ignorance of people towards this invisible, therefore unoticeable technological change

Great minds have brought world changing technology into this land, and bad folks have plans to use and misbehave

And its quite obvious, by their rash choices, that things are gonna get alot worse, before the HOPE of things getting better

What pisses me of the most, is that these folks that “rule” us, have no ethics, the things they suggest/implement feels wrong, to my core, the moment their concept has been communicated, and i look at this person and wonder what kind of person are you that you do not feel the same way……….the revulsion like feeling, for some of these numerous actions, is almost instinctual, which is why i lack faith in those who dont have this same, i guess, instinct

The right of the individual Vs The right of a group of individuals

Their taking the easy route, which also happens to be the road to abuse. The hard route is gonna be hard, its may even be tragic, but it’ll be honest, and without the stupid government playthings to muddle suspicions, LASTING.
Happy people dont want turmoil, and i want to see EVERYONE happy, theres a reason for The pursuit of happiness)

God dammit, this really riles me up, not so much this but another similar story, but same issue. Goddamit, its not like i WANT to write this, but their actions frustrates me so much they create this NEED to vent, if there was such as a good government filled with 100% enlithened people for the people, their would be no need for me to write this jumble of a mess, reactionary opinion piece

They make an action, the people vent, then they make another action to contain the vent, which leads the people to then vent on the action they did in order to contain the first vent, that was caused by their first action

Its a vicious fucking circle……and i dont think their stupid not to know this……i believe they’re prepared to take this as far as they have to in order to fill their damaging mentality of winning……..how about this concept, fair or equality, and not as a fucking concept……if you want to create the surveillance state, gues what, equality dictates that every single person on the planet gets this ability, when the people proposing these are immune to these, how can we trust them to do what is in the best interest of the individual

God damn these random thoughts, they are probably nonsensical, but dammit, no body that ive seen/found is saying them in the way, i feel is doing them justice, my words are words of frustration, i want to see someone who feels the same way and can express, WITH WORDS, not violence (that is not self defence), in the way that does them justice

I gues, Im waiting for the spiritual child of folks like these guys

Ghandi
Snowden
Ron Paul
Tony Ben (Rest in peace, a man i regret to find out about after his passing)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfXmpJRZPYI

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