OPP probe targets firms that host child porn...
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Feb 20, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

OPP probe targets firms that host child porn images

In change of tactics, an ambitious OPP probe goes after companies that host the online files and profit from the data sharing

OurWindsor.Ca

OTTAWA — In one of its largest child pornography investigations ever, the Ontario Provincial Police says it has uncovered thousands of users in 100 countries, all trading in volumes of material “never seen before.”

But in a change of tactics, the real target of the ambitious probe — underway now for two years — isn’t the individuals who view the disturbing images but the companies that host the online files and profit from the data-sharing, said Scott Tod, deputy commissioner of the OPP.

“This is the first investigation of the scale in my knowledge in North America, if not worldwide,” Tod said.

“What we’re alleging is occurring is there are individuals and organizations that are profiting from the storage and the exchange of child sexual exploitation material.”

Profit estimates ring in at about $18 million over a three-month period, he said.

Investigations into child exploitation have traditionally involved officers posing on-line as either adults or children to seek out predators, one-by-one.

But even when arrests were made, many leads were left unchecked because of the manpower needed, Tod said.

That’s why this investigation marks a new approach by the police force, an attempt to go after the firms that host file servers and profit from the storage and distribution of child pornography, he said.

“Rather than the peer-to-peer, one-to-one, we now want to look at . . . how do corporations actually profit and benefit from trading in child sexual exploitation.”

These password-protected web sites typically exist on so-called dark net sites that are shared among only trusted users, Tod said.

But speaking during a cybersecurity panel discussion at a defence and security forum here Thursday, he outlined the daunting technical challenges that have confronted the force during this investigation.

It started when an Ontario police force came to the OPP seeking for help with an investigation into child exploitation material.

The probe led to file service owned by several web hosting companies and police seized 1,250 terabytes of data.

But to process and store that amount of data, the OPP had to purchase technology that had been used by the military. And it developed its own program capable of cracking 500,000 passwords a second to gain access to files.

Tod said the ongoing investigation has revealed 7,500 IP addresses around the world suspected of trading in child pornography, including 2,200 user accounts in the United States, 843 in Germany, 534 in Japan, 457 in Russia and 394 in Canada.

He said the police force is dealing with the RCMP and the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. and expects to involve European police agencies as well.

“Our goal . . . is actually to look at the money behind the organization. Who made decisions so that profits could be made in a criminal manner? Where do they reside? And who are they?” Tod said.

He stressed that it’s too soon whether there’s enough evidence to go after the companies responsible for hosting the sites.

“This is a long-term investigation. This, I think, is one innovative way we can attack that whole aspect of eliminating this material from the Internet forever.”

Toronto Star

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