Tech

Australia Law Enforcement Hacks MASSIVE Child Porn Club

[Shutterstock - Graham Taylor]

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
Font Size:

Australia authorities hacked U.S. Internet users in order to identify and apprehend people who were partaking in a child pornography exchange website.

The dark web child abuse site known as “The Love Zone” (TLZ) includes tons of illegal and lewd content. Users are instructed to keep the page up to date by uploading material at least once a month to have continuous access to the forum, according to Motherboard.

U.S. court documents reveal that as of “July of 2014, the Website was the largest and most sophisticated members-only child pornography website in existence boasting over 29,000 members…”

It is not yet clear how or if the Australian law enforcement obtained a warrant before gathering the IP addresses of the American citizens.

Christopher Allen, a spokesperson for the FBI, told Motherboard that in general, “The FBI led by its Legal Attaches in numerous countries around the world, seeks to foster strategic partnerships with foreign law enforcement, intelligence, and security services…”

The Australian authorities have a specific law enforcement team to deal with child exploitation cases, called the Queensland Police Service’s Task Force Argos. The unit surreptitiously infiltrated the Australian administrator’s account and continued to act as the legitimate owner.

Identifying the locations of the users proved difficult, because users would connect through the Tor network, obscuring and even concealing IP addresses. Australian authorities felt compelled to hack some of the users, who resided in America, to acquire the official IP addresses.

One of the users, referred to as Mr. Piccolo in other court documents, “was first discovered as a user of TLZ when Australian authorities took over the TLZ website,” and “after gathering evidence against a host of users from the United States, authorities turned over a list of names of U.S. citizens to the U.S. law enforcement.”

Piccolo’s attorney, Matthew Borgula, confirmed to Motherboard in an email that Piccolo was caught after he clicked on a link sent by Australian authorities that exposed his official IP address to investigators.

Piccolo pleaded guilty to distribution and possession of child pornography a month ago, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Australian owner of The Love Zone, Shannon McCoole, was sentenced to 35 years in jail for child sexual abuse.

According to ABC Australia, presiding Judge Paul Rice told McCoole his offenses were “evil and depraved,” and told McCoole, “you have no moral compass.”

“It’s easy to think of law enforcement hacking just as a phenomenon where the US hacks people who are located around the world, and we have to remember that this works both ways,” Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told Motherboard.

Follow Eric on Twitter

Send tips to eric@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.