A 23-year-old Conducting global child exploitation caught by Police.
How Bitcoin trades were used to monitor the 23-year-old South Korean operating a worldwide child manipulation website from his bedroom
According to the report published From Julia Hollingsworth, CNN that the whole story came to the high cover story.
For almost three decades, “Welcome To Video” was a covert den for folks that traded in clips of children being sexually attacked.
There, on the darknet’s largest-known website of child exploitation videos, hundreds of users from around the world accessed material that revealed the sexual abuse of children as young as six months old.
Then it all started to unravel.
On Wednesday, the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed how it had followed a path of bitcoin trades to get the suspected secretary of the website: A 23-year-old South Korean guy named Jong-Woo Son.
But the situation is significantly bigger than just one man. Over the almost three years the website was online, users downloaded files over one million times, according to a recently unsealed DOJ indictment. At least 23 children in the united states, Spain, and the United Kingdom that were being mistreated by the users of this website have been rescued, the DOJ said in a press release.
“Children around the world are safer due to the actions were taken by the US and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims,” said Jessie K. Liu, a lawyer for District of Columbia in which the US case was registered. “We will continue to pursue such offenders off and on the darknet in the USA and abroad, to make sure they get the punishment their terrible crimes.”
In total, 337 individuals from 18 countries who employed Welcome To Video have been arrested and charged, the DOJ said. And in an announcement, Thursday, South Korea’s National Police Agency (NPA) said 223 of these were South Korean.
Many Welcome To Video users probably believed they were untraceable.
The site was on the darknet, the underbelly of the deep web, which can’t be accessed by a standard browser. According to the government, some clients paid for the explicit pictures of child sexual abuse in bitcoin, a digital currency that may be spent without users revealing their identity.
However, the downfall of Welcome To Video indicates that bitcoin is not as private as some cybercriminals may have thought.
What was Welcome To Video
According to the indictment released Wednesday from the DOJ, Welcome to Video started operating around June 2015.
The website worked like this: anybody can create a free account. Police say users can download the videos if they paid in bitcoin, or if they earned points by referring new clients, or uploading their videos. According to the indictment, the upload page To Video said: “Don’t upload mature pornography.”
At the moment, bitcoin still was not a widely used payment system. The non-profit Internet Watch Foundation, which works to eliminate images and videos of child sexual abuse in the net, discovered that a number of the most prolific commercial child sexual abuse websites first began accepting bitcoin as payment in 2014. According to the DOJ, Welcome To Video has been”one of the first of its type to monetize child exploitation videos using bitcoin.”
Bitcoin can be appealing for people hoping to slide under the radar. Bitcoin is decentralized, meaning there’s not an organization or official bank which manages trades. Users store their bitcoin in digital accounts — called an electronic wallet — without needing to prove their actual identity, as they might for a traditional brick-and-mortar bank.
From about June 2015 to March 2018, Welcome To Video obtained at least 420 bitcoin through 7,300 trades with users in a lot of countries, including the US, the UK, and South Korea; the indictment released Wednesday shows.
Those trades were worth over $370,000 at the moment.
A number of those trades would finally help bring about the website’s collapse.
How authorities brought down Welcome To Video
To get on the website in any respect, users needed to have specialized applications.
As Welcome To Video was hosted on the darknet, it could not be accessed by browsers such as Google Chrome or Safari. Users are necessary to download applications — such as Tor — which hidden their Internet Protocol address (IP address), a unique number assigned to each device on the web.
But in September 2017, police did something easy, according to the indictment: they right-clicked on Welcome To Video’s homepage and selected”view page source.”
When they did this, they found an unconcealed IP address. This IP address and another discovered in precisely the identical manner October 2017 were traced to a residential address in South Korea — Son’s alleged residence.
At precisely the same time, US researchers were carrying out an undercover operation. After in September 2017 and two in February 2018, a secret agent sent bitcoin to an account given by Welcome To Video.
Every time, the funds were later transferred to another bitcoin accounts — in Son’s name, and registered with Son’s telephone number and email, US authorities alleged in the indictment.
In March 2018, police searched Son’s home and discovered the server for Welcome To Video was hosted in Son’s bedroom. Authorities also seized eight terabytes comprising 250,000 sexual assault videos. In total, 45 percent of the videos examined from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children comprised images not”formerly known to exist.”
From there, police were able to track down other suspects.” (This case) involved plenty of collaboration between a lots of different people,” said Urszula McCormack, a partner in the King and Wood Mallesons law firm in Hong Kong who specializes in blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin. “Often, it is those weak links that expose the entire.”
Data in the server has been shared with law enforcement officials around the world, who used it to track down and prosecute customers of the website in 18 countries, according to a DOJ statement.
In March 2018, Son was arrested in South Korea, also found guilty of making and distributing child porn, a charge that carries a potential 10-year prison term under South Korean law. In May this year, he had been sentenced to 18 months in prison, South Korea’s NPA said.
But Son could still face more prison time.
In August of this past year, Son was indicted on a range of child pornography charges in the united states, including advertising child pornography which carries a possible 30-year sentence.
In order for him to face those charges, Son would have to be extradited to the US — that has an extradition treaty with South Korea. He is arrested if he travels there of his own accord. One reason that the US is considering prosecuting Son is the content was obtained in the nation.
CNN has reached out to the DOJ to inquire if they are going to request extradition. South Korean authorities told CNN they have not received an extradition request from the US — and while he is in prison, Son cannot be impacted by the US indictment.
The defects in bitcoin whilst bitcoin have a reputation among the general public for secrecy, the fact is a little different.
Every time bitcoin is moved, details of the transaction are listed on a publicly accessible, permanent ledger, stated Yihao Lim, a senior analyst from cybersecurity company FireEye. It is, therefore, possible to find out exactly what an individual is performing, even you can not see their real-world identity.
There are other holes in bitcoin’s ability to keep anonymity. In the united states, virtual currency exchanges — the platforms where people can buy and sell bitcoin for real cash — are required by law to verify their customers’ real-world identities. Developed countries are embracing those measures.
This means that bitcoin is not really anonymous — it is pseudonymous. For law enforcement representatives, the difficulty is not seeing the trades — it is linking the bitcoin account with the real-world person behind them, said, Lim.
There are methods for bitcoin users to remain under the radar. But generally, authorities are catching up.
Over the last year, tools that can analyze bitcoin trades have grown to a high degree, said McCormack, by the Hong Kong law firm. “People (in the past) were not aware that this was a chance. I think many people nowadays are unaware of the sophistication of these tools and how much they are able to glean from patterns,” she said.
Lim said it was a public mistake that utilizing bitcoin was secure. “Yes, they’ve been capable of being anonymous at the beginning, but law enforcement has already caught up.”
What happens today
Despite bitcoin’s security gaps, some inexperienced cybercriminals will most likely keep using it,” said Lim. After all, this is not the first high-profile situation where bitcoin has helped bring down a suspect. Throughout the 2015 trial of the inventor of the Silk Road website — a digital market that allowed users to illegally trade drugs — prosecutors revealed that they had tracked millions of dollars in bitcoin into the founder’s personal laptop.
“Many cybercriminals are still misinformed,” Lim said of the criminal underworld. “They are just out there to make a fast buck — they did not do their homework ”
As for experienced cybercriminals, many had already switched to other cryptocurrencies, Lim said.
But people who’ve used bitcoin before could be tracked down at any given point. Since the public ledger which records bitcoin trades is immutable, there is no way to eliminate evidence of previous dealings. In regards to the
Welcome To Video instance, Lim expects more individuals connected with the website to be caught.
In another court document released Wednesday, the US government argued that 24 bitcoin accounts must be sacrificed to police, alleging that they had been used”to finance the site and encourage the exploitation of children.” A few of the accounts were used to make transactions on other darknet websites, such as Silk Road and Evolution where users can purchase drugs and stolen information.
From the press release Wednesday, the DOJ said it intended to regain the illegal funds and return them to the victims of this offense.
“Children are our most vulnerable people, and crimes such as these unthinkable,” said Homeland Security Investigations’ acting executive associate director Alysa Erichs in a statement.” (The) indictment sends a strong message to criminals that, however, complex the technology or how prevalent the system, child exploitation won’t be tolerated in America.
“Our justice system will stop at nothing to stop these heinous crimes, safeguard our kids, and bring justice to all.”
How to get help: in the united states, contact RAINN by calling their nationwide, 24/7 sexual assault hotline on +1 800 656 4673 or talk with a staff member on their site. In Britain, call the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children on 0800 808 5000 or see their site. More resources for protecting children from sexual abuse are seen on Darkness to Light.
CNN’s Sophie Jeong contributed to this report from Seoul.