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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  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 29 Nov 2016 @ 10:15am

    Cmon guys... there were about 214 arrests. Give or take.

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

  • identicon
    Anomalous Cowherd, 29 Nov 2016 @ 10:18am

    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?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 10:22am

    The new FBI motto

    Hack the planet!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 11:38am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 29 Nov 2016 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      Don't forget drug smuggling.

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

    • identicon
      pegr, 29 Nov 2016 @ 12:05pm

      Re:

      "Military Weapons" is hyperbole. Gun stores don't sell military weapons. Your argument is much better when it's accurate.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 5:34am

        Re: Re:

        Fast 'n Furious was a scandal originating in the bush43 whitehouse inherited by the Obama whitehouse which then took all the flac from the "revelations".

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

      • icon
        Niall (profile), 1 Dec 2016 @ 1:52am

        Re: Re:

        That's right, they are just 'insane killing tools'. Your military is equipped with 'even more insane killing tools'.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2016 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re:

        Gun stores don't sell military weapons.

        Sure they do. My local gun store has plenty of Colt model 1911 pistols and various military rifles for sale.

        Your argument is much better when it's accurate.

        Your argument would be much better if it weren't pure bullshit.

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

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      there is a reason why many non Americans like myself will never visit what we consider to be a third world country when it comes to America

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 2:31pm

      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!".

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

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 7:42pm

      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.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 12:39pm

    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..
    BUT we can get PORN from our own government..and send it to 1/2 the countries in the world..

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 5:29pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 1:20pm

    Is it accurate to say that the government of the USA was a distributor of child porn?

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 1:28pm

    So they hacked citizens of foreign countries and for all we know planted child porn on their computers.

    That's what this will come to, not the FBI hacking other countries to stop crimes but to committ crimes against the citizens of other countries.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 2:36pm

    The FBI just loves child porn.

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 29 Nov 2016 @ 3:29pm

    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?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 5:32pm

    In all, the FBI obtained over 8,000 IP addresses

    which overlapped almost exactly with Tor exit nodes.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 6:20pm

    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.

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

  • icon
    Eldakka (profile), 29 Nov 2016 @ 7:53pm

    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?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2016 @ 9:31pm

      Re: Where are the international arrest warrants?

      Different laws for different people. Same old same old. Although it would be interesting to see a foreign government request extradition of those involved.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Source, 29 Nov 2016 @ 8:23pm

    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?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2016 @ 2:36am

    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

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 30 Nov 2016 @ 6:13am

      Re:

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

      Those rights should be held in careful balance, not presented as a direct choice between one or the other. I call it the Twofold Principle: the individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected.

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

  • identicon
    FBI, 30 Nov 2016 @ 8:18am

    NOTICE: no children were harmed while performing the hacks.

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

  • icon
    Animedude5555 (profile), 9 Jan 2017 @ 4:42pm

    So they distributed CP in other countries. But the act of actually acquiring the images actually required pedos to visit the FBI's pedo site. So it required an explicit act from the pedo to download the stuff. It wasn't like the FBI planted child porn on the pedo's computer.

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


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