This kind of reaction from so-called “civil liberties” factions both amazes and enrages me:
Child porn rings hard to track
Wed Feb 7, 2007
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer The numbers behind an international child pornography bust Wednesday were themselves disturbing: Nearly 2,400 suspects from 77 countries allegedly paid to view videos depicting sexual abuse online. But the nature of Internet traffic makes it sadly unsurprising that people would figure they could hide so much hideous material.
Finding and stamping out such content “is needle-in-a-haystack work,” said Carole Theriault, a security consultant with Sophos PLC in London.
Austrian authorities said an employee of a Vienna-based Internet file-hosting service approached his national Interior Ministry last July with word that he had noticed the pornographic material during a routine scan.
The videos showed “the worst kind of child sexual abuse,” said Austrian Interior Minister Guenther Platter, citing the rape and sexual abuse of girls and boys younger than 14. At times the children could be heard screaming.
Lead investigator Harald Gremel said the videos were online for at most a day before they were discovered. The Austrian Internet service employee blocked access to the videos while recording the computer addresses of people who tried to download the material, and gave the details to authorities.
Within 24 hours, investigators recorded more than 8,000 hits from 2,361 computer addresses in 77 countries around the world, including the United States, according to Gremel…
Why did finding this take what would seem a lucky break by network administrator? Because everything traversing the borderless Internet looks the same while in transit. Whether it’s a mundane e-mail or videos as insidious as this, all traffic gets splintered into packets of data that don’t identify what they contain. Consequently, unless a nefarious Web site advertises itself with spam e-mails or shuttles an inordinate amount of traffic, several factors can conspire to keep it in the shadows.
For example, Theriault noted that the perpetrators could send footage over peer-to-peer networks or computers that had been surreptitiously co-opted by Internet worms. “You could have this stuff on innocent machines and the owner wouldn’t even know it,” Theriault said. “It can get ugly and complicated, absolutely.”
Search engines and other analytical programs regularly “crawl” the Web to capture what lurks out there, but generally they are in search of text. One cloaking mechanism – often seen in spam – is for a site to put salacious keywords inside images, out of the reach of text-based scans.
Even the fact that viewers had to pay $89 for some material would not necessarily increase the chances of detection. While the major credit card carriers have programs to verify the validity of merchants in their networks, dozens of Internet payment processors use other methods to discreetly ferry money around, said Mike Petitti, senior vice president of marketing at AmbironTrustWave Inc., a data-security company. One way involves automated check-clearing services that route money from checking accounts and avoid the credit card networks, he said. “There are a number of payment processors out there that have a `Don’t look and don’t ask’ policy,” Petitti said.
Because cases like this are not uncommon – in 2003, German investigators said they broke up child-porn rings that involved 26,500 suspect Internet users around the world – industry and governments have proposed prevention methods.
In fact, on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen introduced revised legislation that would require Internet companies to do more to report child pornography discovered on their networks. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has chided the industry for not being more aggressive on the subject, and last year called on Internet companies to lengthen the time they hold onto logs of their customers’ Internet use.
Those comments churned up civil liberties concerns. But five top Internet companies did announce last June that they would be compiling a database of child-porn images and developing other tools making it easier for network managers and law enforcement to detect such material.
What sort of person do you have to be to believe that protecting “free speech” or personal privacy is a higher priority than protecting children from child rape?
Then, on the heels of that news item, I also found this one, from the political leader of Ontario, Canada:
Ontario Premier calls banning smoking in cars with kids a slippery slope
Wed Feb 7, 3:23 PM
By Chinta Puxley TORONTO (CP) – Making it illegal for parents to smoke in a vehicle in which their children are passengers is a slippery slope that could infringe on people’s rights, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
While doctors and health organizations are urging the province for such a ban, arguing that no one has the right to “poison” their children, McGuinty said he’s not interested.
“I’m just not prepared to go there,” McGuinty said, adding it would start the province down a path that could lead to smoking bans in houses and apartment buildings. “My preference is to provide as much information as we possibly can to people who may have children around them… they have to take responsibility for that.”
Although some argue protecting children from second-hand smoke saves the province money in health-care funding down the road, McGuinty said he doesn’t buy that argument. “We could start saying we shouldn’t be covering people who parachute or people who engage in risky kinds of activities,” he said.
Still, doctors and anti-tobacco activists say the government has to bear some responsibility for the tremendous health risks posed to children by second-hand smoke. “Nobody has a right to poison a child,” said Dr. Ted Boadway, health consultant with the Ontario Medical Association that represents some 25,000 of the province’s doctors. “We decided that as a society a long time ago.”
Smoking in a car is scientifically proven to be worse than sitting in a smoky bar, said Boadway, who added it affects the growth of a child’s lungs among other negative health effects. The province has recognized the danger second-hand smoke poses to employees and banned smoking in public workplaces, so Boadway said it’s just a matter of time until the government recognizes children are also at risk. “We’re patient, although I don’t think the kids have as much time as we do,” he said.
Other jurisdictions – including Bangor, Maine – have banned smoking in cars so Ontario wouldn’t be breaking new ground, said Michael Perley, of the Ontario Coalition for Action on Tobacco. Ontario already regulates seatbelt use in cars and protecting children from second-hand smoke would be no different, he added.
“There is no personal liberty issue here,” he said. “This is a pure matter of negative health effects being imposed on some of our youngest members of society who can’t do anything about it.”
Health advocates like Perley are vowing to continue pressing the government for a ban, but they won’t get much help from opposition parties.
Sometimes I despair… This should not be rocket science. This is about children who look to adults to protect them. And, as a society, we seem to spend more time and effort worrying about protecting those who harm them.