Poisoned Water Holes: The Legal Dangers of Dark Web Policing

Australian police are using “poisoned watering holes” to investigate crime on the dark web. By taking over illegal marketplaces that traffic in child pornography or drugs, law enforcement are collecting information about criminals all over the world.

Of course, crimes that occur on the internet often cross international borders, but this situation is creating troubling new standards in transnational policing.

Research, including our own, indicates that as police operations move into online environments, new rules for digital evidence collection and exchange must be developed to assist prosecutions while preserving due process and human rights. Poisoned water holes: the legal dangers of dark web policing

Investigations on the dark web readily transcend geographic demarcations fundamental to the use of search warrants and the admissibility of evidence.

Some enforcement agencies have conducted online investigations and attempted to access or transfer information outside existing domestic and transnational legal frameworks. This is common in cases involving dark web sites that distribute child exploitation material (CEM).

Without proper checks, police could have significantly expanded scope to search homes and computers around the world, even in cases not involving CEM.

Watering holes and network investigative techniques

The techniques used in online investigations can have potentially problematic legal standing.

Playpen was a dark web site used to distribute CEM. The FBI seized the site in 2015, and obtained a warrant to continue its operation on a government server.

The FBI used a Network Investigative Technique (NIT), also known as Computer Network Exploitation, to identify Playpen users. This distributed malware onto any computer used to log into the site.

The NIT enabled the FBI to identify the IP addresses, log-in times, and operating systems of around 150 computers located in the United States and more than 8,000 computers located in 120 countries. Up to 215,000 registered Playpen users globally could be affected.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Playpen is the largest known US government hacking operation. But it was authorised by a single warrant issued in Eastern Virginia.

Specialist online units in Australia, such as Task Force Argos in the Queensland Police Service, have also used “poisoned watering hole” tactics.

Australian convicted child sex offender Shannon Grant McCoole, who administered “The Love Zone” site, was apprehended after a tip from Danish police. Task Force Argos investigators then effectively ran the site “while feeding information to international law enforcement colleagues”.

The investigation identified many users located in other countries, including several who were prosecuted in the United States.

Details of the warrant used in this investigation are unclear, which is common in cases involving CEM that result in guilty pleas.

This article was originally published by The Conversation.

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Gone in Less Than 60 Seconds – South East Metro Network and WA Police

The Local Governments in the South East Metro District in Western Australia are the City of Armadale, City of Belmont, City of Canning, City of Gosnells, Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale, City of South Perth and Town of Victoria Park. Regular meetings had been taking place amongst the community safety officers of these Local Governments as a way to share information and do some cross boundary work on hot spot areas. After meeting for several years doing small projects together the idea was raised that the group could work on one large joint project that was across all Local Government areas targeting a priority crime that impacted across the district.

With input from WA Police, the offence Theft from Motor Vehicle was chosen as it was a volume crime priority for WA Police and also had significant impacts on each of the Local Governments in the South East Metro. The network developed an awareness campaign that included a display vehicle on a trailer, several short videos showing theft from motor vehicle occurring to distribute via social media, and a style guide with promotional messages such as “Remove It or Lose It”.

The South East Metro Network applied for grant funding to increase the reach and effectiveness of the awareness campaign and to purchase a driveable vehicle outfitted with the branding and messages of the Gone In Less Than 60 Seconds project. Both the vehicle and trailer are engaging with the public when placed in shopping centres or at local events.

Feedback and statistics from WA Police indicates that in the areas where the trailer or vehicle are set up there is a decrease in theft from motor vehicle for up to 2 weeks after the awareness campaign has moved on from the area. Feedback from members of the public who engage with the display is very positive and indicates people are more aware of vehicle safety and their responsibilities to assist reducing opportunity crime in the community.

This article was kindly provided by Mathew Owens, Senior Neighbourhood Enrichment Officer – Safer Neighbourhoods

Supporting Skills Development and Job Creation for Peace Building in Global Cities

Research I conducted in Melbourne in August 2016 highlighted that despite many of the South Sudanese youth interviewed having achieved university level education and trying hard to adapt the Australian way of life, all were unemployed or working at the lower rungs of the workforce ladder.

Danura Miriyagalla

None were working in the field that they studied despite having strong English language and technical skills. They felt that education and skills training had not led to the opportunities expected, and many felt that they were not able to secure employment due to lack of experience in the field of study.

However, the key reasons that were identified for their sub-optimal employment situation were the lack of networks and racial profiling. Like many migrants, there was an added expectation for some to be responsible for the livelihoods of family members both in Melbourne and in South Sudan, giving further pressure to secure better jobs. Importantly, none expressed any personal intention to vent their frustration through violent means. However, they felt that it was not surprising that many of those who did resort to crime were unemployed, and that news of violence coming out of the conflict in South Sudan was an added psychosocial challenge.

Linked to the context of poor job prospects for South Sudanese youth in Melbourne, youth in South Sudan face extremely dire employment prospects. Official data is scant and often unreliable. Available data from 2011 suggests the employment rate is only 12%. Discussions with development practitioners and youth in Juba highlight that for the few employment opportunities that were available, there were significant mismatches in skills such as information technology. Many youth lacked proper qualifications that were credible or suitable for the job market, and were drawn into the conflict due to lack of other opportunities and for a payment of as little as $1 a day.

It is essential that policy makers and practitioners significantly support the prevention of violence in global cities through initiatives where employment opportunities for youth are created in a way that meets their aspirations. Importantly, it is essential to support employment creation for educated youth in both migrant and home cities. Such support will reduce the dependency on those who are abroad and create positive role models. Apexah Global hopes to start a project that uses information technology as a platform for jobs and peace.

This article was kindly provided by Danura Miriyagalla, PhD