[LINK] Is police spyware in your computer??

rene rene.lk at libertus.net
Fri Oct 2 20:54:51 AEST 2009

On Fri, 2 Oct 2009 14:32:12 +1000, Roger Clarke wrote:

> [At face value, this is a pretty disturbing report.  It seems fairly
> likely that it's full of misinformation from the source that fed it
> to the reporter and/or misunderstandings by the reporter.]

Most probably both of the above. I'm 99% sure that police are not putting 
spyware on people's computers in relation to this system. 

The clue is in the articles' statement: "Known in the US as Operation 

> Spy software, then police, swoop on child porn file sharers Date:
> October 1 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald John Silvester
> http://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2009/09/30/1253989955217.html
> POLICE have secretly identified thousands of suspects who are
> allegedly trading child pornography images through online networks.
> Detectives expect to make hundreds of arrests, having used a
> breakthrough software program to spy on files held in private
> computers.

This "breakthrough software program" was created in 2006 by  Flint Waters, 
Lead Special Agent for the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task 
Force. His system is named "Operation Fairplay" and a fair amount of info 
about it is available in testimony given by him to US Senate Committees 
(links to testimony below).

> [Ah, the expression "technology similar to that used to share music
> files between computers" raises the question as to whether there
> really *is* spyware involved.
> [Just suppose the police were using an *existing* P2P package, and
> had searched for instances of "known child pornographic images", and
> extracted the IP-addresses, and identified which ISP administers
> them, and hit the ISPs with warrants for the subscriber and premises
> information, and then went to that location.  

Yep, that's pretty much what they do.

Flint Water's system trawls one (or maybe more) publicly accessible P2P 
networks looking for computers advertising files for download that contain 
'cp' material. About 12 months ago when I first researched this matter, all 
articles involving Flint Waters that named a P2P network, named Limewire. I 
do not know whether the system is capable of operating on any other P2P 

For more info see:

* "Child Sex Crimes on the Internet", prepared for: House Judiciary 
Committee, by Flint Waters, Special Agent, Wyoming Attorney General 
Division of Criminal Investigation, 3 October 2007 

* Testimony of Special Agent Flint Waters, Lead Agent for the Wyoming 
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Wyoming Division of Criminal 
Investigation Office of the Attorney General, for the United States Senate 
Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs - "Challenges 
and Solutions for Protecting our Children from Violence and Exploitation in 
the 21st Century", 16 April 2008. 

(The second file above includes a map of the US with red dots identifying 
computers, no doubt the same as the "imaging" map of Victoria that the 
Herald claims to have seen. There have also been such maps of the UK 
published by UK newspapers.)

See also:
* "Flint Waters responds to [Wayne MacPhail's] rabble column about ch--d 
porn and the media", 28 February 2008. 
(which is a response to:
"How the media can misrepresent the Web", Wayne MacPhail, rabble.ca, 28 
February 2008 
http://www.rabble.ca/columnists_full.shtml?x=68162 )

In the above response, Flint Waters says:
	"The system that I built does not do any form of sniffing though it does 
read the public ads generated by people trading child sexual abuse images.  
We identify images based on hash value and disregard all information not 
related to child exploitation."

Much more info can be found via searches for:
- Operation Fairplay
- Flint Waters
- Operation Peer Precision


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