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The Story of the Pedophile-catching Hacker

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the small-world dept.

363

missing30 writes "A Turkish hacker seeding usenet groups with trojan horses has made it a habit to hunt down pedophiles trolling the groups. The cases go back to 2000, with the mysterious good samaritan responsible for several arrests. The man now has tacit approval from the FBI for his actions." From the article: "At the urging of Montgomery Police Capt. Kevin Murphy, '1069' eventually turned over more and more information that led back to a computer owned by Bradley Joseph Steiger, who had worked as an emergency room physician in Alabama. The hacker's finds included information from Steiger's AT&T WorldNet account, records from his checking account, and a list of directories on his computer's hard drive where sexually explicit photographs were stored."

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363 comments

I say the ends don't justify the means. (5, Insightful)

rodgster (671476) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985900)

I say the ends don't justify the means.

I don't think the police should be allowed to use illicitly gained information or that they should be allowed to encourage private citizens to commit felonies.

>
>"we have not seen anything to indicate that this person is other than...a citizen of Turkey."
> That turned out not to be entirely true: The FBI actually had made contact with "1069"
>through a U.S. phone number
>

Where does it end?

If it is OK to do to catch pedophiles then it is OK to do the catch terrorists and I know I've read several accounts of where patriot and other anti terror acts have been used for entirely unrelated crimes.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (3, Insightful)

Rolo Tomasi (538414) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985910)

I'd rather have private hackers do it than the government.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (5, Insightful)

Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985921)

If the government is making under-the-table dealings with "private" crackers, what's the difference?

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (1, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985929)

I'd rather have private hackers do it than the government.

What color is your shirt?

KFG

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (2, Funny)

sdriver (126467) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986106)


I don't wear a shirt you insensitive clod!

It's called a "search warrant". (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985933)

I'd rather have private hackers do it than the government.
If it is going to be done, then it should be by the government and they should be required to get a search warrant.

Otherwise, anyone in ... say Russia for example, can crack your computer and search for child pornography ... and credit card numbers.

Oops. Sorry. Those credit card numbers were accidentally leaked, along with your Social Security Number and such.

But at least those Russian "hackers" know you weren't collecting kiddie porn.

Re:It's called a "search warrant". (5, Interesting)

zecg (521666) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986040)

Otherwise, anyone in ... say Russia for example, can crack your computer and search for child pornography ... and credit card numbers.

Also, they also can plant the pornography themselves, once they root the user's box.

Re:It's called a "search warrant". (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986084)

I am absolutely against vigilante justice. We need government to do it properly, ot allow for oversight and prevent abuse.

Hut part of me says, how is this different than an anonymous tip? What if someone called the police and said "I was using my roommate's computer and found these images..." and the police asked him to go in an investigate further?

Re:It's called a "search warrant". (4, Insightful)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986137)

The police shouldn't be asking the roomate to investigate further. They should tell a judge "we think this guy is doing X", get a warrant, and investigate themselves. If you don't have enough evidence to support convincing a judge to issue a warrant, I would suspect it's just a fishing expedition. I mean, seriously, how hard is it to find probable cause when the searchee isn't even present to defend themselves?

Sometimes vigilante justice is needed (1, Insightful)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986142)

In this case, our heroic hacker has done his job, he's found the pedophile, now it's time for him join law enforcement, assume some responsibility and accountability for future actions, and go legit.

Vigilante justice is sometimes needed to fill the gaps, but society's the worse for it if the problem requiring vigilantes remains, or if the vigilantes remain unchecked.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985954)

The man now has tacit approval from the FBI for his actions.

I don't see how it's any different. Just because someone else is doing it for them doesn't make it any better.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985985)

I'm rather worried that hacker can put information onto someone else's computer (photos, jpegs, etcetera) and then turn around and finger that person to the police. With an open net connection 24/7 and the ability to hide/decrypt things or just plain old hiding folders in bizarre/out-of-the-way directories, there is no telling what is on someone's computer at all times. In addition, harddrives are so big now, small movies let alone hundreds of photos can escape detection (hey, why is my drive capacity getting continually smaller?)

BTW, I am not saying that is the instance in this case nor do I believe it, but vigilante justice opens up the whole system to abuse.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (2, Insightful)

gutnor (872759) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986138)

Especially that planting evidence against you can have tremendous impact. If the hacker can access the private machine of an individual for a while, it is not technicaly very difficult to create evidence that stand up against first examination ( i.e. mixing true family photo with closely looking child, ... ), especially if the hacker is motivated by the ex-wife, an employer or concurrent.
When you have been investiguated for child pornography you can say bye bye to a normal life.
Think about what it can do to your marriage, or about the common belief that if somebody has been investiguated, he is not completely clean ( especially in case like this).
And if we are talking about terrorism you can even wake up in guantanamo stripped from all your legal rights.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (1)

Stellian (673475) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986039)

I'd rather have private hackers do it than the government.
You don't mind if the government finds that your computer has been compromised by a hacker, who plants child porn on it, and you are convicted and have your life destroyed based on this "evidence" ?
How can any conviction be made against the victims of the "hacker" when the chain of evidence is clearly broken? Are we just supposed to trust he is an "honest" hacker? How can you get beyond any reasonable doubt under this premises: Your Honor, my computer was hacked; I have no idea who planted that crap into my computer. Case closed.
If any convictions are made with the help of this "hacker", it`s only because his victims had bad, bad lawyers.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (1)

BrainInAJar (584756) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986072)

The checka & gestapo made heavy use of private citizen "informers", rather than doing their own investigations... I'll leave the conclusion up to you

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (5, Funny)

Deltaspectre (796409) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986081)

What? This?

The phone rings at KGB headquarters.

"Hello?"

"Hello, is this KGB?"

"Yes. What do you want?"

"I'm calling to report my neighbor Yankel Rabinovitz as an enemy of the
State. He is hiding undeclared diamonds in his firewood."

"This will be noted."

Next day, the KGB goons come over to Rabinovitz's house. They search
the shed where the firewood is kept, break every piece of wood, find no
diamonds, swear at Yankel Rabinovitz and leave.

The phone rings at Rabinovitz's house.

"Hello, Yankel! Did the KGB come?"

"Yes."

"Did they chop your firewood?"

"Yes, they did."

"Okay, now it's your turn to call. I need my vegetable patch plowed."

http://www.netjeff.com/humor/item.cgi?file=kgb.txt [netjeff.com] (and found at http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=194175&cid= 15918611 [slashdot.org] )

only a pedophile (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985940)

would object to this. End does justify the means in most circumstances. why is it so hard to acknowledge that child porn is wrong?

Re:only a pedophile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985979)

No one is saying that child porn isn't wrong. But what if his "trojan" got out of the usenet groups and your mother's computer got it? Or yours? Or your work system? Whether it did or didn't, it doesn't make what this guy did any better or worse.

Besides, as we have seen before, pedophiles aren't the brightest of people. Do we really need such hitech solutions to catch them?

Re:only a pedophile (1)

rodgster (671476) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985998)

Tell me "Oh Great Defender of all that is just and right", how do we know this isn't a case of extortion, revenge, planting of evidence, or any other possibility?

We don't, but fascists like you have knee jerk reactions based on the charges not the evidence or integrity of the evidence or any of the facts in evidence. One of those facts is that an FBI agent perjured himself on the stand to obtain the conviction.

one can only hope (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986019)

that you're not around small children or have one yourself. We've made a lot of progress in terms sexual freedom and deservedly so. But child porn is definately not something we need to venture into. I say kudos to the Turki and FBI.

Re:one can only hope (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986041)

fuck off asshat

Re:only a pedophile (1)

ashooner (834246) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986105)

That's a good point. i mean, if you aren't guilty, you have nothing to hide, right?
 
dumbass.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (4, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986012)

I don't think the police should be allowed to use illicitly gained information or that they should be allowed to encourage private citizens to commit felonies.
Thing is, 4th Amendment protections only prohibit the government from illegally searching your property. If a burglar breaks into your house and steal a sack of the counterfeit money you're printing then later gets caught and fingers you, the 4th Amendment doesn't apply. They still need a warrant to search your place, but the sack of C-notes with damp ink are easily enough to get one. Now, if the government hires a burglar, that's a 4th Amendment no-no; otherwise, you can press charges for criminal trespass if you like-- from your prison cell. The moral of this story is that if you're a criminal, be careful about protecting your stuff from other criminals, particularly if they "have it in for you". Nothing new there.

Re:I say the ends don't justify the means. (2, Interesting)

TheSkyIsPurple (901118) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986059)

The difference is that the government was prosecuting the burglar already... they were pursuing him for a crime, which means they didn't approve his actions.
If they are not going after this guy, then they are approving his actions, and he's effectively working for them, and the evidence is subject to 4th ammendment protections.

At least that's how it looks in my head

So it's OK? (4, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985906)

To hack anyone as long as you say you are hacking to catch "pedophiles"? Sounds more like the FBI trying to side-step normal limitations of spying on people.

Re:So it's OK? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985988)

Honestly? Bravo for the hacker. And bravo for the FBI for doing something worthwhile with my tax dollars that actually MEANS something to the masses - particularly loving parents. I don't even have kids and I don't care how the pedophiles are caught - as long as they are caught. Child abuse like this is child abuse and should be stopped by ANY means necessary, sans murder.

I also don't think they should be isolated away from other inmates...but that's an entirely different arguement altogether.

Re:So it's OK? (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986058)

To hack anyone as long as you say you are hacking to catch "pedophiles"? Sounds more like the FBI trying to side-step normal limitations of spying on people.
The FBI isn't doing anything but opening their mail, though. What should they be doing? Throwing out genuinely incriminating information purely on principle or something? Vigilantism is an awkward area. Doubly so when the vigilante is in a country outside your jurisdiction. Triply so when the guy seems to only be targeting pedophiles. Technically what he's doing is illegal, but only a feet-planted-firmly-in-the-air pure theoretical academic idealist would say assault charges are warranted against a man who tackles some loser he sees knock down an old lady and run off with her purse. How different is this? Different enough matter?

Re:So it's OK? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986083)

In this case, it happened in the middle of a large forest, at night, the guy who stole the purse has his brains splattered all over the ground, the old lady is nowhere to be seen, and the purse still has the price tag attached to it.

Re:So it's OK? (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986088)

Anything a hacker can see he can add. How do we know these people really had anything illegal, BEFORE they were hacked? Is a hacked person's computer really considerable evidence? From what I have seen elsewhere, it seems the consensus is no.

And would you approve the FBI using the exact same methods themselves? What's stopping them from sending people to the Congo to do this outside American laws? How do we know this ISN'T the case???

Re:So it's OK? (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986145)

Throwing out genuinely incriminating information purely on principle or something?

Yes, they should. It's the same reason evidence from illegal police searches is thrown out. If the judge is going to say "bad, bad FBI! you shouldn't have done that to get this evidence which we will now use to find in your favor!", why wouldn't they keep doing it?

You're obviously a pedophile. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985915)

Only a pedophile would have anything to hide from hackers. I bet you hate America. Please turn yourself in to your nearest police station or orphanage. Thank you.

So you should be using Patriot Search (tm) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986091)

yeah (2, Interesting)

misey (996068) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985922)

that's awesome, and it may give those fbi agents a different view on things like the 2600 magazine, Off the Wall/Hook, and Emmanuel Goldstein.

Yeah (2, Funny)

Walzmyn (913748) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985923)

Mild mannered pedophile catcher by day...
Evil identity theif by night.

Does it hold up in court? (1)

jdhutchins (559010) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985925)

The real question is, will this evidence hold up in court? IANAL, but it would seem that an easy defense would be to go after this information.

Re:Does it hold up in court? (5, Informative)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985991)

The real question is, will this evidence hold up in court?

The legitimate law enforcement agencies use illegally gained information on a regular basis.

How do they get away with it? They don't present that particular information in court. They leverage that information into admissible evidence by converting it into probable cause for a legitimate search. This is the very problem with widespread, illegal monitoring of the public and why the public might be inclined to support the practice, at least until they become the target.

KFG

Re:Does it hold up in court? (1)

andersa (687550) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986146)

In Denmark, lets say the police accidentally searches your house without a warrant, and they find something nasty, the law says that just because the police didn't actually have the right to be there, then that doesn't make you less guilty.

I think that is fair enough. Of course I am Danish.

Re:Does it hold up in court? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985992)

IANAL but the obvious question I would have to bring up (if I were a lawyer) would be "If this person (a hacker) had access to your computer, what evidence do you have that they didn't put this data onto your computer?"

This reminds me of a virus my brother got on his computer a while back. My brother downloaded some "Game" and it was (in fact) a Trojan; the program went to all the default P2P download folders (and created them if they did not exist) and filled them full of files like "Tiny_Teen Sloppy_Sex.exe" and "Half_Life_3_Beta.exe" (obviously copies of the virus). Being that he didn't use the default folders he didn't spread the virus any further.

The point I am making with this is that Hackers can get files onto your computer without your knowldege or consent; why would a court of law accept this information as evidence?

Re:Does it hold up in court? (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986074)

The real question is, will this evidence hold up in court? IANAL, but it would seem that an easy defense would be to go after this information.
They're not prosecuting based solely on an email attachment full of hints. You can be fairly sure they're only using it to observe the guy and get a warrant. The evidence they convict with is probably more like the actual hard drive full of kiddy porn from the guy's system and chat logs of undercover agents getting child porn from the guy. Hard to argue it was planted if you're sharing it freely.

Re:Does it hold up in court? (1)

popsicle67 (929681) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986157)

Third party evidence is used all the time. The fact that the person supplying the evidence was committing a crime to get the evidence does not usually matter as long as they were not an acting agent of a law-enforcement agency. These are outside the pervue of our courts anyway as that crime is not being committed within our borders. The only crime they can look at is the downloading of child porn, and the defence can hammer all it wants on how the evidence is collected, but I think it will be admissable.

Justified (1)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985928)

This guy seeded alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.pre-teen, and clearly did it with the intention of catching paedophiles. I'd say it's justified.

Re:Justified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985962)

I'm not going there, but please dont tell me this link contains what I think it does. :(

Re:Justified (1)

RPoet (20693) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985996)

I, too, was surprised to discover there is porn on the usenets. Of course, this was in 1997, but regardless.

Re:Justified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985966)

Don't let the subject matter distort the ethics of the matter. The only people who should be doing this are law enforcement if they have a warrant.

Not (was:Justified) (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985987)

This guy seeded alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.pre-teen, and clearly did it with the intention of catching paedophiles. I'd say it's justified.
Permitting this to continue sets a really bad precedence. Every dictatorial government always have convenient ... secret informants that conveniently produces incriminating evidence on the behalf of the government to demonize and convict undesirables. Affording the defendant to opportunity to face his/her accuser is essential to curb abuses.

Re:Justified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986002)

Wouldn't it be entrapment if the FBI did it directly?

Re:Justified (1)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986090)

IANAL, yada yada

Entrapment is offering an inducement that is enough to convince law-abiding citizen to do something illegal. That's usually money, but it could be other things as well. It's a risky defense since it requires admitting the wrongdoing.

This wouldn't be entrapment since 1) non-pedophiles may have legitimate reasons to monitor that newsgroup. e.g., see the recent Salon.com article on kiddie porn researchers being frustrated since the feds don't have any exceptions for properly accredited researchers. I can easily see somebody snarfing that thread to see how much of it is spam, how much is clearly adult erotica, how much is teenage non-erotica, and how much is questionable content. I suspect the latter is only a tiny fraction of the traffic.

If mere subscription is enough to be criminal, the ISPs could simply require people to log in to access all newsgroups and then monitor who subscribes to that group.

And 2) there is no inducement for people to look at the group. Nobody is standing on the street corner offering people $100 to peek into the group.

Re:Justified (1)

Not The Real Me (538784) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986005)

"This guy seeded alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.pre-teen, and clearly did it with the intention of catching paedophiles. I'd say it's justified."

Not only that, it also explains why sites don't get Slashdotted like they used to. :p

Re:Justified (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986015)

This guy seeded alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.pre-teen, and clearly did it with the intention of catching paedophiles. I'd say it's justified.

I hate to be this guy, but I just have to remind everyone that being a paedophile, in and of itself, is not against the law. To do so, we would be making certain thoughts illegal. This seems to be often overlooked. Possessing underage erotica is certainly illegal, but just being a paedophile is not.

Thank you, from a real-life boogieman (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986126)

Thank you for being that guy. As a pedophile myself, it is very tiring to read of "pedophile-catchers" and how terribly evil pedophiles are. I did not choose to be a pedophile, and it is without my reach to change. Still, it is not hard for me to live a perfectly crimeless life. At 30, I have never had sex with anything but my palm (that statement may not have a very dramatical effect, considering this is Slashdot), and I am at peace with the prospect of dying as a virgin. Dying (and living) alone, however, is not as nice, but you make the best of the cards you've been dealt in life.

How very appropriate that the captcha Slash dealt me was "reject".

How did it work though? A trojan? (1)

sgant (178166) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986043)

If you're downloading pictures or .avi or .mpg movies...how can a trojan slip by there? You're not executing a script or a program. Are they using that old .jpg exploit? Hasn't that been patched?

I don't understand how people are falling for this.

Man. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985930)

Those pedophiles ruin everything.

Yeah, what's the next step? (5, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985932)

Next time a hacker will plant the images himself and then get brownie points with the FBI.

But your honor... (5, Interesting)

gwayne (306174) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985934)

This hacker obviously planted that child pornography on my computer with a trojan, in an attempt to blackmail me, a promonent local physician...

Re:But your honor... (2, Interesting)

legoburner (702695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985944)

Good point, if the defendant can prove they did not have absolute control over their computer, perhaps the charges are null and void. Only if the FBI were directly monitoring him after the tip off would he not be able to use that defense, and even then it can be argued that it was a hacker making his computer do it, making it look like him.

Re:But your honor... (3, Insightful)

telchine (719345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985968)

I've read that this is quite a common excuse used by people caught in posession of child pornography in the UK. They say "look my wi-fi connection isn't encrypted, it could have been a hacker that put those images there". Apparently it doesn't work as a defence because they are responsible for the security of their own computer.

Interestingly though, if they catch someone stealing an Internet connection via unsecured wi-fi, it's the person who is using the connection that is at fault, not the person who's failed to secure their Internet connection.

Re:But your honor... (1, Troll)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986060)

yet another reason to support communism- I mean, if your computer belongs to everyone, then everyone had the porn!
*removes tongue from cheek*

Re:But your honor... (2, Insightful)

cpu_fusion (705735) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986065)

if the defendant can prove they did not have absolute control over their computer, perhaps the charges are null and void

I am not yet a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but I'd say there are two problems here. The first is that judges and juries don't understand technology the way we do, and all they will have to go on is expert witnesses, whom the prosecution would deliver as well as the defense. The second is that when the DA offers a deal, which they will given the desire for an easy conviction, the suspect have to ask himself if he wants to take a very big gamble.

In a more perfect world, plea bargaining wouldn't exist (nor be thought of as "necessary" by a system loaded with vice-crime offenses), our courts would allow scientific facts to be determined through inquisitorial "expert" judges rather than juries, and the FBI and law enforcement wouldn't be cooperating with self-confessed law breakers to catch innocent-until-proven-guilty suspects, who at worst are shown simply to possess an image of an act (not actually participated in the act) no more or less heinous than videotapes of the twin towers falling and killing 3,000 people. (i.e. the images themselves are just images, its the unprovable-without-confession arrousal that is the sick act.)

Anyways, G-d Save the Constitution.

Re:But your honor... (2, Insightful)

Peaker (72084) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986121)

Its not the "sick arousal" that's the problem.

The images are a problem if they encourage people to go catch kids to make those images.

If a guy is unlucky enough to be a pedophile, he is expected to avoid sexual satisfaction as to avoid harm to children. You can't expect something that's probably genetic or in any case not in the control of the person to be controlled (i.e aroused by child porn) but you can expect him to do whatever is necessary to not act upon those urges.

The pictures of the WTC are not the encouragement for such acts, and are not problematic - so you cannot compare them with the images that required child abuse and made only for those who seek to view them.

Re:But your honor... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986143)

its the unprovable-without-confession arrousal that is the sick act.)


Arousal is not an conscious act, so how can it be a crime or an "act"? A device was made to measure "arousal" in men (measures blood flow to penis), it is not admissible in court:

http://skepdic.com/penilep.html [skepdic.com]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penile_plethysmograph [wikipedia.org]

It is embarassing to admit, but I've experienced "arousal" in circumstances that I cannot explain sometimes. Around one male teacher when I was 14, even though I am not gay nor have never had the least urge to experiment. I have also experienced "arousal" as a teenager and adult with my maternal aunt, she is attractive. Yet I have not acted upon it. Nor do I obsess over it - I figure it is normal for a person to have thoughts/daydreams/arousals that are just out there. Arousals cannot be countrolled nor are they acted upon for the most part.

What should be condemned is someone who can't control themselves and act upon these sudden impulses or like the case for child pornography, cause others to act upon it (demand for more pictures, etcetera).

Re:But your honor... (1)

Jacer (574383) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986080)

He was convicted of sexual explotation of a minor, in addition to receiving child pornography. One would guess that some of the pictures on the hard drive depicted him in certain acts with one of the children... Not that anyone bothers to read the articles. I have no problems with the way the evidence was collected if 1.) The guy really is a Turkish citzen acting under absolutely no direction of domestic law enforcement (I do think protecting the constitution is important) 2.) the FBI didn't lie about their involvement with the person (I think their involvement with the guy is fairly suspect, and would merit further investigation, which would invalidate point one. If he were an american citizen, who did act without the direction of law enforcement officals, the evidence would still be admitted to court, which I endorse. However if he is an American citizen, I would also wish him to be prosecuted for whatever digital crimes he commited.)

What about me? (2, Funny)

telchine (719345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985936)

I've been doing something similar, I've been stalking around on Napster and the like since about 2000, gathering "evidence". I now have quite a healthy collection of "evidence". I wonder if this will work as a defence when the RIAA come knocking?

Re:What about me? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986007)

I wonder if this will work as a defence when the RIAA come knocking?

Only if you try to sue them.

Does this terrify anyone else? (5, Insightful)

zeroiq01 (929520) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985947)

This scares the crap out of me. Some third party "hacks" it to a computer of and idividual and claims he/she found child porn/terrist plots/cream cheese recipies....or whatever. Why isnt anyone yelling...... he/she might have just as well planted it themselves how are we to know? He/she had access to the computer. Seems like a real easy way to get someone in trouble they arent going to check. This is the reason the FBI and other "Gov" police agencies have rule that have to be followed. This is sick and very scary. I am not saying that they didnt do it but damn, talk about an easy way to railroad someone.

Re:Does this terrify anyone else? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986028)

This is the reason the FBI and other "Gov" police agencies have rule that have to be followed.

If you aren't scared, you haven't been paying attention. Here's the really scarey part, the FBI no longer have to follow the rules by the simple expedient of hiring private information gatherers who are not bound by the rules.

The courts allow this, even though it seems fairly intuitively obvious that if you take Caesar's money, you are Caeser's man.

KFG

Re:Does this terrify anyone else? (1)

Jacer (574383) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986061)

A lot of people are asking how do they know the evidence was not planted by the white-hat. I would speculate that some of the pictures found on the hard drive had pictures of the defendant in them. If you would have read the case breif he was sentenced for child pornography AND sexual explotation of a minor (appearing to be around six years old) Now, like I said, this is speculation, but it seems to be the only logical conclusion, based on the information provided.

Re:Does this terrify anyone else? (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986099)

Okay, better, but there's still the possibility of Photoshop.

Does No Good (1)

Bloodmoon1 (604793) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985956)

It doesn't matter if this evidence nets 1 or 1,000 convictions, every last one of them will be overturned on any number of grounds and the prosecuting agencies that utlizie this evidence will open themselves up to quite a bit of litigation and will probably eat some heavy judgments against them.

Any even remotely intelligent agency will turn away from "help" like this, because it will only jack their asses up in the end.

Re:Does No Good (1)

Ai Olor-Wile (997427) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986064)

Excuse me sir, not if the current government has anything to say about it. Dismissed! To protect our freedom from child pornographers!

Re:Does No Good (2, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986096)

It doesn't matter if this evidence nets 1 or 1,000 convictions, every last one of them will be overturned on any number of grounds and the prosecuting agencies that utlizie this evidence will open themselves up to quite a bit of litigation and will probably eat some heavy judgments against them.
Nonsense. 4th amendment doesn't protect you from burglars who catch you growing pot in your basement and tip off the cops. Just like it's not a 1st amendment violation for your boss to tell you to shut up and get back to work. The convicted pedophiles are free to press trespassing charges against this guy from their jail cells, if they wish, but that's about the limit of their recourse. It's not illegal for the FBI to catch you in the act of collecting/trading child porn because the methods of the tipster are questionable. The two issues are actually unrelated.

We don't need no stinking cops! (-1, Troll)

P0lyh34) (602065) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985963)

Seriously, screw the fbi, call me! Give me their name and address. I'll go rape them with a fucking shovel.

Re:We don't need no stinking cops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986001)

Damn right! Those hackers and FBI morons should be raped with a shovel! To undermine due process like this...

Re:We don't need no stinking cops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986006)

Would you by any chance be a descendent of various upstanding, God-fearing citizens that said screw the cops, lets hang this nigger up high, he obviously had his hands on our good, clean, white women?

There's a reason why we don't allow vigilantism in this country. You're it.

Re:We don't need no stinking cops! (4, Funny)

RPoet (20693) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986022)

I'll go rape them with a fucking shovel.

That's a very disturbing fantasy you got there. May I check your harddrive?

Re:We don't need no stinking cops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986034)

When you're done with that, could you take care of that woman living across the street? I heard she's a witch! You hear me? A WITCH! *makes awkward hand movements*

Seriously, you stupid idiot.

playing devil's advocate (0, Redundant)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985975)

the trojan "it installs a backdoor in the victim's computer and can allow files to be extracted and a keystroke logger to be installed."

Sounds like you can extract and install files so how do we know he didn't put the files on there himself? For all we know these are guys on forums he doesn't like or ebay sellers who have done him wrong. This is a slippery slope and vigilante justice. These are hackers, they're not the most law abiding citizens, not sure if I'd trust a hacker to not install kiddie porn on some guy's PC for kicks, especially if he believes the guy has done him wrong.

Re:playing devil's advocate (1)

Canordis (826884) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986111)

This is a slippery slope and vigilante justice.
Hey, they said the same thing about Spider-Man.

Re:playing devil's advocate (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986114)

Sounds like you can extract and install files so how do we know he didn't put the files on there himself? For all we know these are guys on forums he doesn't like or ebay sellers who have done him wrong. This is a slippery slope and vigilante justice. These are hackers, they're not the most law abiding citizens, not sure if I'd trust a hacker to not install kiddie porn on some guy's PC for kicks, especially if he believes the guy has done him wrong.
Believe it or not, some of the people working for the FBI are at least as smart as YOU and have already thought of that. They don't drag these people off to rot in the gulag/gitmo based solely on an anonymous tip. They generally just put them under surveilance. When they catch the guy in the act of sharing/collecting kiddie porn, that's when they arrest them.

If someone was in the blackmail buisness... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15985989)

* The laws against being gay in the UK used to be described as a "blackmailer's charter". If someone was in the blackmail buisness, it would be easy to plant porn in people's PCs, "discover it" with this sort of activity, and then threaten to unmask them unless, etc etc. Given the level of hatred (quite justifiably) directed against kiddie porn users, I imagine a lot of people targeted would buckle. They might say they'd never seen it, but who would believe them?

A couple of questions:

* Has there ever been a time in history when such serious penalties have been used against consumers (as opposed to producers) of pornography? (I'm not saying these penalties are wrong for genuine consumers of this stuff, just curious).

* Wikipedia says...
"the Supreme Court of the United States struck down in 2002 the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 that prohibited, among other things, simulated child pornography. The court ruled that it violated the First Amendment to ban material depicting fictional illegal conduct when no such conduct had been involved in production. "
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography#Legal_sta tus_of_pornography [wikipedia.org]

I seem to remember that there were predictions of a tidal wave of simulated child porn from this -- did it ever happen?

a little liberty, for a little security. (5, Insightful)

RShizzle (983535) | more than 7 years ago | (#15985990)

I find myself torn after reading the issue. Obviously, what hacker 1069 is doing is good and aiding the authorities by stopping the exploitation of children. However, his means are questionable as well as those of the authorities.

What if third party multinationals are allowed to hack into US systems to aid in the capture of terrorists? Obviously, there was a large amount of evidence provided that made sure the pedophiles being caught were definitely guilty, but couldn't evidence just as likely be planted?

What's even more concerning is that this person doesn't seem to be a third party hacker from Istanbul, but an American citizen (note the american telephone number). If this is the case, isn't this a message saying vigilantism (which strikes at the very base of authority, the fact that it is only the government that is allowed to use force against it's citizens) is accepted? If it is accepted in catching pedophiles, which is a pretty black and white case, what about when it enters the gray areas? What about when it starts being entangled with constitutional rights? (Due process of law seems to be a big one involved).

I believe the authorities involved might very easily have started on a slippery slope. Who knows where it will lead? How much do we value due process? How much do we value freedom? How much do we value results, irregardless of how they were gotten?

But remember:
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." - Benjamin Franklin

A quandry indeed.

Re:a little liberty, for a little security. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986053)

Obviously, what hacker 1069 is doing is good and aiding the authorities by stopping the exploitation of children.

Really? I don't find it all that obvious. Hacker 1069 is helping to bust slimeballs that look at kiddie porn downloaded off usenet. Not people that pay for the stuff, not people that produce it. Wake me up when he stops someone who actually has exploited a child (and don't give me that crap about how looking at a picture is molesting that child all over again).

Re:a little liberty, for a little security. (1)

h2gofast (934016) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986078)

rules, ethics, morals, laws, principles, are constructed to protect and further the common good.
If an action furthers the common good but breaks the rules, is the action still wrong, do the principles still apply? Pedophiles are evil incarnate, because their victims often grow up to be really f'ed up adults, perpetuating a cycle that affects us all. From what I could understand of the article, he wasn't trespassing against anyone who didn't take numerous and deliberate steps to acquire photos of children in erotic poses. It did not sound like he was randomly monitoring internet traffic or randomly hacking into citizen's hard drives.

If an action breaks a rule but benefits the common good, is the action still wrong?
It is that simple. The only reason someone would want to enforce the rules in such a case is to place their own interest before the collective interest. I'm not thrilled about the fbi patrolling usenet by proxy, but in this particular case, the mouse wouldn't be in the trap if he hadn't gone for the cheese.

Re:a little liberty, for a little security. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986098)

Obviously, what hacker 1069 is doing is good

But if it was the authorities doing the same thing, it would be bad....at least in the eyes of many people here. What if 1069 was in fact an off-duty cop, or an FBI agent working on his/her free time? Would it still be good or bad? The intentions might be good, and I'd love to be able to do stuff like this to "help out." But I'll have to continue to do the old fashioned way: Ethically.

Re:a little liberty, for a little security. (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986136)

I agree with you completely except for the first statement:

Obviously, what hacker 1069 is doing is good and aiding the authorities by stopping the exploitation of children. However, his means are questionable as well as those of the authorities.


For all the reasons you've listed 1069 isn't performing performing any good, but a grave injustice. He's providing a means for our government, which must be transparent and subject to the limitations of law, to circumvent the well-placed constraints on governmental power that are there to protect all of us, not just the pedophiles.

He may think he's doing a good thing, and this thought may be what the FBI is using to justify their tacit approval, but he isn't. He is undermining our laws - a fundamental disrespect of our first right to self-determination and sovereignty. If he really cared that much about justice, he would rather see the preservation of a fair justice system than the arrests and prosecution of a few pedophiles. If he doesn't think our justice system is fair the he should work within the law to improve it, not outside the law, not as a replacement for the law.

This also implicates the FBI. If that agency had respect for our law then they would enforce all of them, not just the sex crime statutes but also the ones that are there to guarantee limitations on FBI's own investigative powers. These laws are there for all of us. Pedophiles can hurt a few children gravely, yes. A corrupt justice system can hurt millions.

Moreover, if these pedophiles get off on evidence discovery loopholes or on the basis of law enforcement malfeasance, then it will be harder to prosecute them on legimately obtained evidence in the future due to the double jeopardy restrictions. Even though they are likely to commit separate, prosecutable crimes, prosecuting them incorrectly once makes it harder to prosecute them correctly in the future. This is bad.

If I recall correctly(and I might not), it was the founder of the ACLU, Baldwin, that said something quite right, to this effect(I don't remember the exact quote): in order to defend our rights we are often forced to defend scoundrels, who are usually the first people to lose their liberties.

In this case, even though the pedophiles earn the names of "scoundrels," and "scumbags," I will defend their legal and constitutional rights to privacy because if theirs are at stake, mine are at stake. If theirs are ignored, then any intrusion of my privacy can be justified by the alleged aim of "preserving public good, decency and safety" on the basis of mere suspicion, as you and Ben Franklin aptly affirmed. This is exactly the type of crime in response to which ordinary citizens disarm themselves against the intrusive impulse of the government, and this is exactly the type of situation that the constitution is there to prevent.

Also, why does this (possibly Turkish, possibly American) person take it upon themselves to identify American pedophiles and child pornographers? Isn't that a little strange? Doesn't it remind you of the neurotic character that Robert de Niro played in Taxi Driver - fixating on the pervasive "filth" that he imagines everywhere, to the point of seeking it out and immersing himself in it? This guy is hanging out on child pornography newsgroups. Even if he isn't looking at the porn, he is there uploading trojans and gathering evidence. Isn't that a little creepy and obsessive, not to mention self-righteous and possibly illegal? Doesn't this person have his own country and his own business to worry about?

Enforcing American law is the American law enforcement's job. No exceptions. Period.

taking credit for others actions? (1)

proudhawk (124895) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986029)

I hate to say this, but shouting his actions
from the rooftops isn't really helping. all its doing
is adding to his "15 minutes of fame".

there are real cyber-cops out here that do this
job 24/7 and they don't advertise that fact (for fairly
obvious reasons). it is to these folks who work tirelessly,
without praise or award, that I raise my glass in a toast:
"may you always keep us safe in our homes and hearts!"

one last point: real cyber-warriors DON'T USE TROJANS!

I think its great (preparing for flame) (5, Interesting)

Keaster (796594) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986036)

As I read the brief article it defiantly made me consider both sides of the story; however, in the end I side with my heart. Fuck the kid touchers, let em' rot. This guy could be doing some real garbage cracking, screwing with legit business and good people, but, he didn't. He went after the scum. I agree 100% with 1069. Go for it!

Before I get the crap flamed out of me I will remind, it's just my opinion.

Re:I think its great (preparing for flame) (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986082)

He went after the scum.
You forgot the little word "alleged", as in there's no evidence.

And no, a private third party coming up with incriminating stuff isn't evidence. That's what Police are for. Remember? Due process and such? You must have already heard it, although it's slowly getting rotted off over there.

Sometimes us civilized folk think you hillbillies never made it out of medieval times with witch hunts and all that. Exchange witches with pedophiles and you're right on track again. Yep, very civilized. *rolls eyes*

Re:I think its great (preparing for flame) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986120)

Because everyone knows that child pornography, like witchcraft, doesn't really exist, right?

Re:I think its great (preparing for flame) (2, Insightful)

RPoet (20693) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986092)

Fuck the kid touchers, let em' rot.

There was nobody involved in this story who touched kids, as far as I understand. The alleged crime in question was storing illegal images.

Re:I think its great (preparing for flame) (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986101)

I agree with you. People who have molested children should rot in prison.

But here's the problem. How do we know that this guys wasn't framed? How do we know this guy in Turkey didn't plant those photos there? How do we know that there is even a 'guy' in 'Turkey'? It could be some kind of revenge act from a person across town.

I think one of the worst miscarriages of justice would be to be falsely accused of pedophelia -- even if you eventually cleared your name, people would always suspect you got away with one of the worst crimes imaginable, that you were a monster just looking for a new victim. It would totally ruin an innocent person's life.

Re:I think its great (preparing for flame) (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986112)

So..where does it end?

First you OK illegal searching of people's computers 'to save the kiddies'. Next you OK illegal searching of people's homes 'to save the kiddies'. Then you go down a list outlawing or making penalities harsher to unrelated things now that 'to save the kiddies' mentality has caught on and everyone is riding that train.

Pretty soon you can't even take a piss in the middle of the woods without a flying camera bot shooting you in the back with a tazer and hauling you to the nearest detention facility.

Re:I think its great (preparing for flame) (2, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986115)

Another point:

"This guy could be doing some real garbage cracking, screwing with legit business and good people, but, he didn't."

How do you know he didn't? There is nothing to stop him from doing both good *and* evil. In fact, the FBI seemed to give him a pass on his hacking activities for the good he was doing. What a great opportunity for someone who wanted to do a little evil on the side.

The Name of the pedophile is Bradley J. Steiger? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986047)

You know, pedophilia is defined as mental illness in the ICD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICD [wikipedia.org] .

And pedophilia can be treaten in non-medical and medical therapies.

I don't see a reason to disclose the Name of the pedophile. But I guess that's what infotainment is all about, right?

Re:The Name of the pedophile is Bradley J. Steiger (1)

RPoet (20693) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986085)

I think you mean the DSM-IV [wikipedia.org] , not the ICD. But yes, pedophilia is one of the few mental disorders where sufferers are never shown any compassion, and rarely offered any treatment. What other illness can you have that will make you universally hated, by just about every person on Earth?

Unacceptable Bypass of the Law (2, Insightful)

OnoTadaki (914593) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986070)

The fact that the hacker was trying to catch pedophiles is the last concern when figuring out if this is lawful or not. First and foremost, he broke into people's computers and did unlawful things to illicit his information. On those grounds alone it should not be admissible in court. Imagine if you were a store owner and you arrive there one day and see that your place has been broken into and all your files have been gone through. Then you find out that it was just a rogue 'burglar' who breaks into businesses to see if they're legally filing their taxes correctly. The government sides with him and you're left with a hole in your store, thousands of dollars in damages and uncountable damages from the data he might have taken from you, etc... Is that fair or even close to legal? Sure there's lots of hatred towards pedophiles and it's VERY easy to step aside and cheer this because it's presumably dropping their numbers, but the bottom line is it's intirely immoral regardless of whether he's stopping pedophiles, rapists or tax evasion.

Re:Unacceptable Bypass of the Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15986100)

Sir, do you like dead children?

Ah, yes, blackhat vigilantes... (2, Interesting)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986077)

Normally I'd agree that taking the law into your own hands is not only illegal but a very bad idea; however, there are always exceptions. 99% of vigilanteism is a bad idea, as it does not entail people taking the law into their own hands to help others in a non-violent way, but usually runs from personal matters gone awry to the militant folks that "help patrol" the U.S.-Mexico border or other groups that believe it their duty to create a mob mentality when handling real or perceived threats (I can't help but add my favorite quote, from Men in Black of all movies: "A person is smart and intuitive; people are dumb, panicky, and dangerous animals").

The difference is, when it comes to pederasty, I can't really think of many methods I wouldn't condone to cull the abomination. However, many people make a great logical fault in believing that they need to make the rules based on the exception (people that try and use pedophilia as the means to creating whatever laws they want) or in believing that the exception must fall under the same rules as all other crimes in being found and prosecuted, lest authorities create abusive legislature on the pretense of catching child molesters.
There is a middle road in all things, and vigilanteism makes a fine one for this. You don't want to give police the rights to do what a blackhat does to find a pedophile, but you want the pedophile caught.

However, the case in point is an exception. The man lives in another country and the FBI, of course, won't and couldn't file charges, but I don't believe that this constitutes "tacit approval"... although the FBI may simply be trying to send a signal to the blackhat community that reads something like "Sweet Christ, we have no fucking idea how to use computers (Database? The fuck is that?), if any of you guys wants to give us a hand in catching these guys, by all means, go ahead. Do whatever you can."
The feds can't approve of someone breaking the law, obviously, or acknowledge that someone without warrants or CARNIVORE can do the job better than the ol' FBI. But they can turn a blind eye to it, if only for the crime of pedophilia and nothing else.

If I recall correctly, wasn't there a hacker group in the U.S. that did this in the late 90's or are still doing this? I distinctly remember seeing a few adverts and hearing a few inquiries about people who wanted to join up in the old hidden IRC rooms way back when. Ah, sweet nostalgia... days of linux shell accounts, little sleep, and keeping an extra machine running only OS/2 Warp, if only out of spite, back when code came so easily. Christ, my mind has addled.

Steiger's defense attorney must have really sucked (2, Interesting)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986109)

My immediate reaction to this story was: if '1069' had the capability to break in to a computer to extract images, he also had the opportunity to plant the images there in the first place. A strong line of defense would be to assert that the anonymous 1069 is some sort of vigilante nut who gains access to the computers of innocent people, plants bogus evidence on them, then turns the victims in to authorities.

This whole case has so many holes that the defense could use, I'm amazed that they were able to convict. Stiger's attorney had to have blown it.

So what happens if the hacker is a US Citizen? (1)

superslacker87 (998043) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986119)

Hacking is illegal here last I checked, so what happens if this vigilante happened to be a US Citizen in Montgomery, AL? Logically, they'd have to arrest the guy once they found out where he was, charge him with hacking and breaking and entering. Who knows? Maybe him and the doc would be cell mates!

Mathematically, the ends justifies the means... (2, Interesting)

themonkman (877464) | more than 7 years ago | (#15986148)

If your doing something illegal, you should be punished if someone other than the police finds out and reports it, regardless of how they get the information. Now, if you had to break a law in your country to prove that someone did something illegal, you should be punished for breaking that law, such as trespassing. This man from Turkey broke no laws because he is not bound to our laws. US law is not universal. If he broke a law in Turkey, then he should probably be punished in some way for breaking that law, while keeping in mind the good he did by breaking that law. He should receive a less severe punishment, such as probation. If he broke that law for his own gain or selfishness (e.g. hacking for the purpose of identity theft or fraud) then he should feel the full force of the law in his country.


While I don't advocate hacking for any other purpose other than to expose threats in an ethical manner, I feel that the good that this man did to bring these pedophiles to justice cancels out the unethical act of hacking those pedophile's computers. Let us say an unethical act like hacking could be expressed in a negative number, such as -3. Let us also say that an ethical act of bringing pedophiles to justice is expressed as a postive number, say 5. You add the sums of the ethical and unethical acts, and together you get 2. The outcome of the actions, and their final sum measured says that in the end, his acts were positivly ethical, overall. Add that to the fact that he is not bound to our laws and opinions of what is right or wrong. This should be considered when forming your opinion on whether the ends justifies the means.

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