Recent reports reveal that four men from the United States of America and Canada were sentenced to decades in prison for running what seems to be a “highly sophisticated” encrypted underground network for trading child pornography.
The Justice Department noted the four convicted men ran a “global child exploitation enterprise” called “The Giftbox Exchange” on the open-source Tor Network, which utilises an overlay network for directing internet traffic and obfuscating the details, locations as well as the identities of those using it.
It seems that the website was being paid for, in bitcoins and the men “used other advanced technological means to thwart law enforcement efforts, including file encryption and cryptography.”
Patrick D. Falte, 29, of Franklin, Tennessee, was given a sentenced of 35 years in prison for being involved in a child exploitation enterprise, three counts of distributing child pornography and three counts of advertising child pornography. Andrew R. Leslie, 24, of Middleburg, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; Benjamin A. Faulkner, 28, of Ontario, Canada, and Brett A. Bedusek, 35, of Cudahy, Wisconsin, were sentenced to 20 years in prison, for their roles in the scheme.
Three of the men had already been sentenced for child sex crimes, according to the DOJ.
The case was aided by the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Investigation and High Technology Investigative Unit, which have been tasked with investigating crimes against children that involve the use of encrypted communications, anonymisers and other sophisticated technologies.
The FBI has increasingly called on technology companies to help break various encryption methods to help find online criminals, including sex offenders. Christopher Wray highlighted several cases at an FBI cybersecurity conference in July in which he said companies helped the bureau find and rescue abused children through their cooperation.