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Court Orders FBI To Reveal Malware Used To Harvest 1,300 IP Addresses In Child Porn Sting Operation

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A judge ruled that the Federal Bureau of Investigation should disclose the full code it used when it hacked a child pornography site on the dark web.

The security service reportedly deployed a hacking tool that allowed it to gather and identify more than 1,000 IP addresses of the site's visitors across the globe.

In February 2015, the FBI seized child pornography site Playpen, which it described as the biggest remaining child pornography service providing site in the world. After the seize, the agency kept the site running for two weeks using its own servers. So far, the agency has charged around 137 people in the sting operation.

During the operation, the FBI learned that the Tor-based site had more than 215,000 registered users. They also learned that the site contained links to more than 23,000 sexually explicit videos and images involving children. All in all, they discovered around 9,000 files which were all given direct access from the federal agency.

One thing that gained the attention of civil liberty advocates is how the FBI used just a single warrant to infiltrate the computers of unidentified suspects from across the globe. Moreover, the defense pointed out that since the FBI allowed the dark web site to continue running for the reason of deploying its NIT (network investigative technique), the agency, in one way or another, became an instrument in the proliferation of child pornography.

In the past, FBI agents were not allowed to use web-based child pornographic images as a bait to catch visitors to the site. According to the Justice Department, the children depicted in the images eventually suffer from the harm brought by every visit to the site. Moreover, the FBI has no full control of anyone who intends to copy or recopy the images and have them circulated throughout the Internet.

FBI's hacking campaign reportedly affected computers from Chile, Greece and the United Kingdom.

A judge gave out a ruling in January that stated that the FBI did not commit an "outrageous conduct" during the child pornography sting operation.

Federal Public Defender Colin Fieman said the order requires that all the code components used by the FBI be disclosed. However, there was no mention on when the code should land on the hands of the case expert.

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