Australian Authorities Hacked Computers in the US

Motherboard is reporting that Australian authorities hacked Tor users in the United States as part of a child pornography investigation. The revelation comes through recently-filed US court documents. The incident underscores a trend where law enforcement around the world are increasingly pursuing targets overseas using hacking tools, raising legal questions around agencies’ reach. From the report: In one case, Australian authorities remotely hacked a computer in Michigan to obtain the suspect’s IP address. “The Love Zone” was a prolific dark web child abuse site, where users were instructed to upload material at least once a month to maintain access to the forum. By July 2014, the site had over 29,000 members, according to US court documents, constituting what the US Department of Justice described as a “technologically sophisticated conspiracy.” In 2014, Queensland Police Service’s Task Force Argos, a small, specialised unit focused on combating child exploitation crimes, identified the site’s Australian administrator in part because of a localized greeting he signed messages with. The unit quietly took over his account, and for months ran the site in an undercover capacity, posing as its owner. Task Force Argos’ logo includes a scorpion, and the tagline “Leave No Stone Unturned.” Because The Love Zone was based on the dark web, users typically connected via the Tor network, masking their IP addresses even from the law enforcement agents who were secretly in control of the site. Task Force Argos could see what the users were viewing, and what pages they were visiting, but not where they were really connecting from.


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