Friday, March 24, 2017

Child Porn Crackdown In Slovenia: Law Enforcement Raided 13 Apartments

On March 7, investigators in Slovenia carried out house searches at several locations in connection with the sexual abuse of children on the internet.

According to police information, law enforcement authorities raided 13 addresses aiming at collecting information and evidence to justify the suspicion of crime presentation, manufacture, possession, and distribution of child pornographic material. The primary objective of the police action was to identify the victims of sexual abuse. The General Police Directorate started investigating online child porn cases in 2015, the long-lasting investigation only resulted in major steps against alleged criminals now.

The house searches took place at 6 pm at the home of the suspects involving 79 police investigators and officers in Celje, Maribor, Novo mesto, Koper, Murska Sobota, Kranj, and Ljubljana.

Law enforcement authorities identified 17 alleged offenders, who are suspected of spreading content regarding the sexual abuse of children on the internet. Investigators seized more than a thousand of devices from the defendants. According to police information, the victims were between the age of 10 and 17. Authorities identified four cases of physical sexual abuse in the long-lasting investigation.

“Today, the country conducted house searches, which were aimed at gathering evidence to substantiate the suspicion of crime presentation, manufacture, possession, and distribution of pornographic material,” Anton Toni Klančnik, head of the Department of Juvenile Crime at the General Police Directorate (GPD) said in a press release.

Investigators identified the 17 alleged offenders, however, due to the lack of evidence, they have not detained the suspects yet. According to Klančnik, the house searches will be followed by the forensic examination of the electronic devices and data storage media from computers, tablets, cameras, USB memory sticks and other devices that were seized in the house raids.

At present, during the home searches, law enforcement authorities yet to discover a child who would be “directly threatened”. However, Klančnik stated that the primary objective of the investigation was to discover and find victims of sexual abuse. Therefore, to prevent such crimes from happening, the police encouraged the public to report any cases where they suspect the sexual abuse of children.

According to Klančnik, the alleged perpetrators in the case posted child porn videos online, which they often made with webcams. He added, that in some cases, the suspects met with the victims, sexually assaulted them, and uploaded the content online (either to clearnet or dark net sites). Since 2015, the investigations identified four cases of such crimes.

Children, who have fallen victims to sexual predators, were mainly schoolchildren aged between 10 and 17. The GPD official also added that, in most cases, girls were the victims.

By the laws of Slovenia, the offense of presentation, manufacture, possession and distribution of child pornographic material could be punished with eight years in prison.

As the dark web became popular among cybercriminals, the number of child pornography forums and websites also seen an increase. There have been numerous cases, where law enforcement authorities took down child porn websites and arrested the admins. However, online pedophiles started using techniques to challenge law enforcement. For example, on most forums, all members have to distribute child pornography content in order to download media content from other members. The administrators of such sites do this for security reasons. If an undercover agent seeks to infiltrate a pedophile community, they also have to upload content, which will collide into legal problems making the whole law enforcement operation a failure. However, in some cases, police threw away the barriers and taken down such sites risking a legal procedure by doing so. In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the admins of the infamous PlayPen dark net child pornography site. However, instead of just accepting the fact that they had the main perpetrators in custody, they kept the site running. While they were controlling PlayPen, they uploaded malware – which they call NITs (Network Investigative Technique) – infecting the computers of the members who logged in to the website after the FBI took it over. The operation resulted in the unmasking of about 4,000 computers and prosecutions against hundreds of suspects. However, several judges and lawyers claimed that the Bureau used illegal methods for the agency’s investigation.