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FBI’S DARK WEB CHILD PORN INVESTIGATION STRETCHED TO NORWAY

From Motherboard

 

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Joseph Cox

Contributor

November 21, 2016 // 08:30 AM EST

Nearly two years after its inception, more details about the largest known law enforcement hacking campaign are still coming to light. According to local media reports, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation provided information to Norwegian authorities from its large-scale investigation into child pornography site Playpen.

The case highlights the FBI’s use of malware to search computers overseas, as the US prepares to usher in new powers for judges to authorize hacking operations, which experts have described as the broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI was created.

Late last week, Norwegian police said they had arrested 51 people on suspicion of child pornography crimes as part of its own “Operation Dark Room.” Authorities have taken 150TB of material, making it one of the largest seizures in Norwegian history, the announcement reads.

The operation originated with the FBI’s crackdown of dark web site Playpen, Bergens Tidende reported, although it is not clear how many of those 51 arrests were directly related to the FBI’s tip-offs.

In 2015, the FBI took over Playpen, and ran it for 13 days from a government server. During this time, the agency deployed a piece of malware it calls a network investigative technique, or NIT, in order to grab site users’ real IP addresses. The FBI then provided these IP addresses and other technical information to law enforcement agencies internationally. Judging by a report on Norwegian site VG.no, that includes authorities in Norway.

The FBI “distributed an invisible program that tracked IP addresses and other information that could identify those who were viewing the page,” a translated version of the report reads, likely referring to the FBI’s malware.

“Western Police District has long had a number of investigators on the case,” the article continues. The FBI provided Norwegian authorities with information about the suspects last summer, the report adds.

Motherboard has found that the FBI’s Playpen investigation also stretched to Australia, Colombia, Chile, Austria, Denmark, and Greece, and there are indications of more related cases in Turkey and the UK as well.

In December, new rules governing the FBI’s use of remote hacking will likely come into effect. The changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure will mean that magistrate judges could authorize hacking outside of their own jurisdiction, including overseas.

Norwegian police did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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