The FBI Uses Its Hacking Powers for Good

March 4, 2016

In a victory for basic human decency, Engadget informs us, the “FBI Hacked the Dark Web to Bust 1,500 Pedophiles.” Citing an article at Vice Motherboard, writer Jessica Conditt describes how the feds identified their suspects through a site called (brace yourself) “Playpen,” which was launched in August 2014. We learn:

Motherboard broke down the FBI’s hacking process as follows: The bureau seized the server running Playpen in February 2015, but didn’t shut it down immediately. Instead, the FBI took “unprecedented” measures and ran the site via its own servers from February 20th to March 4th, at the same time deploying a hacking tool known internally as a network investigative technique. The NIT identified at least 1,300 IP addresses belonging to visitors of the site.

“Basically, if you visited the homepage and started to sign up for a membership, or started to log in, the warrant authorized deployment of the NIT,” a public defender for one of the accused told Motherboard. He said he expected at least 1,500 court cases to stem from this one investigation, and called the operation an “extraordinary expansion of government surveillance and its use of illegal search methods on a massive scale,” Motherboard reported.

Check out this article at Wired to learn more about the “network investigative technique” (NIT). This is more evidence that, if motivated, the FBI is perfectly capable of leveraging the Dark Web to its advantage. Good to know.


Cynthia Murrell, March 4, 2016

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