Malware and hacking tools are established parts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's toolkit when it comes to unmasking criminal suspects on the Tor anonymity network. In a new case revolving around someone blackmailing children, FBI agents sent the suspect a digitally-poisoned movie file that obtained the target's real IP address.
Though the FBI has used hacking techniques in a wide, controversial manner, the tactic used here highlights how the bureau can identify suspects in a much more targeted way too.
Monday, prosecutors announced charges against Buster Hernandez, 26, of Bakersfield, California. Hernandez is charged with threats to use an explosive device and sexual exploitation of a child. He is suspected of using the moniker "Brian Kil."
Since 2015, Brian Kil has used social media, email, and VoIP to communicate with a number of underage female victims and extort sexual photos from them, according to the criminal complaint. Under duress, some victims sent explicit images and videos to Kil.
When Kil used sites like Facebook to harass victims, investigators found he was always hidden either behind an anonymous proxy or the Tor network, meaning authorities could not simply subpoena relevant companies for the suspect's IP address.
"Your time is running out. You though [sic] the police would find me by now but they didn't. They have no clue," Kil wrote to one of the victims. As the harassment, threats, and publication of sexually explicit photos continued, law enforcement even held a community forum at Plainfield High School in January last year to discuss the case. Kil allegedly forced one of his victims to attend and report back, according to the complaint.
On June 9, Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch authorized the use of a Network Investigative Technique (NIT), an FBI blanket term for malware, exploits, and hacking tricks. The idea, the complaint adds, was to obtain Kil's real IP address.
The complaint explains how the FBI's tactic worked.
In this case, the FBI was authorized to add a small piece of extra code to a video file produced by one of the victims. Posing as the victim, the FBI then sent the booby-trapped file to Kil via Dropbox.
"Uploading now. Did you get it," a message from the undercover FBI agent to Kil reads, according to text messages included in the complaint. (The video did not include any depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit activity, the complaint reads).
Judging by the complaint, the NIT was successful. "When Kil viewed the video containing the NIT on a computer the NIT disclosed the true IP address associated with the computer used by Kil," the document adds.
Armed with the IP address, investigators then filed an emergency subpoena with the relevant internet service provider and were given a physical address. After intercepting communications to and from that IP address, investigators found someone viewed a photograph of the Columbine killers, according to the complaint. Kil, it turned out, had posted the same photo when he threatened the Plainfield School District in 2015. Physical surveillance showed that resident Buster Hernandez was always present when Tor was being used in the home.
Several recent cases have shown the FBI using hacking tricks in a targeted manner. In May, Forbes reported on an investigation in which the FBI used a similar technique but with Word documents rather than a video file.
These stand in stark contrast to the agency's broader use of malware. Motherboard found the FBI used a Tor Browser exploit to hack over 8,000 computers in 120 different countries.
Although this latest case doesn't highlight any vulnerabilities in the Tor network itself, it does act as a reminder that there are ways of deanonymizing people in a targeted way using novel or unorthodox law enforcement techniques.
See the original post:
The FBI Booby-Trapped a Video to Catch a Suspected Tor ... - Motherboard
- Teejayx6 Will Steal Your Identityand Rap About It - WIRED - December 2nd, 2019
- Such as the struggle of the Venezuelan economy, some residents turn to a lucrative gig: Cybercrime - Herald Journalism 24 - December 2nd, 2019
- Smart users guide to the snooping game - Livemint - November 17th, 2019
- Privacy on your smartphone: how to protect your data - AndroidPIT - November 17th, 2019
- BBC News heads to the dark web with new Tor mirror - The Verge - October 27th, 2019
- The Tor Project releases Tor Browser 9.0 with several UX improvements - Neowin - October 27th, 2019
- Fraudulent Tor Browser Spies and Has Been Stealing The Bitcoins - GoodTime Nation - October 27th, 2019
- OnionShare Lets Anyone Host Anonymous Sites on the Dark Web - BleepingComputer - October 16th, 2019
- #SecTorCa: Millions of Phones Leaking Information Via Tor - Infosecurity Magazine - October 16th, 2019
- Is there anything we can do to stop someone spying on us? - Newstalk 106-108 fm - August 25th, 2017
- If you're really concerned about browser security, Incognito isn't enough - TechRepublic - August 20th, 2017
- The Daily Stormer has lost its lease, accessible only via Tor browser - The Moderate Voice - August 20th, 2017
- Tor Project 'disgusted' by Daily Stormer, defends software ethos - CNET - August 18th, 2017
- Neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer resurfaces with Russian domain following Google and GoDaddy bans - Vox - August 16th, 2017
- Tor Browser 7.0.4 Download - TechSpot - August 14th, 2017
- Debian-Based Tails 3.1 Anonymous OS Debuts with Tor Browser 7.0.4, Linux 4.9.30 - LXer (press release) - August 11th, 2017
- Tails 3.1 has been released but you'll need to do a manual upgrade - Neowin - August 10th, 2017
- China and Russia go further in squelching Internet freedom - Washington Post - August 10th, 2017
- Major Improvements Are Coming Soon to the Tor Browser - The Merkle - August 8th, 2017
- The Attack on Global Privacy Leaves Few Places To Turn - WIRED - August 4th, 2017
- Tor Co-Founder: There Is No Dark Web The Merkle - The Merkle - August 3rd, 2017
- Online privacy protection - Choice - CHOICE - August 2nd, 2017
- There Is Basically No Dark Web. It's Only A Few Webpages TOR Co-founder - Fossbytes - July 31st, 2017
- How to Install Tor Browser for Mac and Protect Your Online Activity - iDrop News - July 29th, 2017
- How to get around an ISP blocking a website - MyBroadband - July 26th, 2017
- Don't blame online anonymity for dark web drug deals. - Slate Magazine (blog) - July 26th, 2017
- Tor network will pay you to hack it through new bug bounty program ... - ZDNet - July 21st, 2017
- Tor Project to launch public bug bounty project - CIO Dive - July 21st, 2017
- How to access the dark web - The Daily Dot - July 20th, 2017
- Your Mailman Is a Drug Dealer. He Just Doesn't Know It. - WNYC - July 20th, 2017
- Want porn? Prove your age (or get a VPN) Naked Security - Naked Security - July 20th, 2017
- Suspected AlphaBay founder dies in Bangkok jail after shutdown of online black market - Washington Post - July 19th, 2017
- S. Sudan blocks Sudan Tribune website over hostile coverage - Sudan Tribune - July 19th, 2017
- Assassins and child porn; a darknet offers everything - The Slovak Spectator - July 19th, 2017
- Apple users warned of dangerous new Mac malware that steals banking credentials - ThaiVisa News - July 18th, 2017
- The best security apps to lock down your Android phone - The Daily Dot - July 14th, 2017
- Mozilla is held to a higher standard - Ghacks Technology News - July 14th, 2017
- Privacy blunder? Firefox's Get Add-ons page uses Google Analytics - Ghacks Technology News - July 13th, 2017
- Russia, China vow to kill off VPNs, Tor browser - The Register - July 11th, 2017
- How to safely search the deep web - The Age - The Age - July 11th, 2017
- ACLU's Gillmor on privacy: 'We pay for what we value' (Q&A) - The Parallax (blog) - July 10th, 2017
- What is Tor browser, and is it safe? | Komando.com - July 7th, 2017
- Darknet 101: Your guide to the badlands of the internet - CNET - CNET - July 5th, 2017
- In Reporting on North Korea, Tech Helps Break Through Secrecy - New York Times - July 5th, 2017
- How to safely search the deep web - The Sydney Morning Herald - July 5th, 2017
- TOR Browser - darkwebnews.com - July 5th, 2017
- How To Search The Deep Web Safely - Gizmodo Australia - July 5th, 2017
- Burleson man convicted of accessing child porn from dark website - Fort Worth Star Telegram - July 4th, 2017
- Here Brazilian Journalists Learn Privacy for Themselves and Their Sources - Brazzil.com - June 30th, 2017
- Purism aims to push privacy-centric laptops, tablets and phones to market - Computerworld - June 29th, 2017
- Brazilian site teaches journalists how to protect sources and personal data from digital attacks - Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas (blog) - June 29th, 2017
- The best ways to make your search private in 2017 - KnowTechie - June 28th, 2017
- Bill regulating online anonymizers unanimously passes first ruling in Russian Duma - Washington Times - June 24th, 2017
- The Burger King Ad That Activated Google Home Just Won A Prestigious Award - XDA Developers (blog) - June 24th, 2017
- Mozilla's new Android browser blocks ads and trackers - Boing Boing - June 22nd, 2017
- Secure OS Tails 3.0 Launches With Debian 9 Base, Redesigned ... - Tom's Hardware - June 15th, 2017
- Tails OS hits version 3.0, matches Debian's pace but bins 32-bit systems - The Register - June 14th, 2017
- Tor Browser 7.0 is released | The Tor Blog - June 10th, 2017
- Tor Browser 7.0 works harder to protect your anonymity on its own - Engadget - June 10th, 2017
- Tor Browser 7.0 released - gHacks Tech News - Ghacks Technology News - June 8th, 2017
- Tor Browser 7.0 arrives with multiprocess mode, content sandbox, and Unix domain sockets - VentureBeat - June 7th, 2017
- Wikipedians Want to Put Wikipedia on the Dark Web - Motherboard - June 7th, 2017
- What The Dark Web Is And How To Access It - Komando - June 3rd, 2017
- What is Deep Web and How is it Different from Dark Web - Guiding Tech (blog) - June 1st, 2017
- If You Think WannaCry is Huge, Wait for EternalRocks - Data Center Knowledge - June 1st, 2017
- DOJ, FBI Executives Approved Running a Child Porn Site - Motherboard - May 30th, 2017
- What is Tor, How It Works And Where to Download the Tor Browser? Everything You Need To Know - MobiPicker - May 30th, 2017
- WannaCry 2.0: EternalRocks author calls it quits - TheINQUIRER - The INQUIRER - May 28th, 2017
- Data For Sale: What Everyday Consumers Can Do To Keep Their Info Safe - Forbes - May 26th, 2017
- Fearing surveillance in the age of Trump, activists study up on digital anonymity - Washington Post - May 26th, 2017
- EternalRocks Attack Spreads While Using Same Exploit As WannaCry Ransomware - Yahoo News UK - May 23rd, 2017
- Tor browser for Android that is better than Orfox is in the works - Android Kenya (blog) - May 23rd, 2017
- Organizations Can Combat WannaCry & Jaff Ransomware With Well Instrumented DNS - Techzone360 - May 23rd, 2017
- This Spy App Can See If You've Visited Whistleblowing Sites on the Dark Web - Motherboard - May 20th, 2017
- Why Nigerian CIOs should care about the dark web - ITWeb Africa - May 20th, 2017
- A hack has put data of 17 million Zomato users at risk: Should India be worried? - DailyO - May 20th, 2017
- New Jaff Ransomware Part Of Active Necurs Spam Blitz - Threatpost - May 13th, 2017
- Three vulnerabilities allow spies to detect Tor browsers - Cloud Pro - May 9th, 2017
- Tor Browser - TechRadar - May 6th, 2017
- Tor Browser Profiles Itself - Security Intelligence (blog) - May 4th, 2017