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    131: Welcome to Video

    The Welcome to Video case showed the sickening reality of child sexual abuse and brought hundreds of abusers to justice, but also highlighted the need for stronger laws and accountability for those who profit from such atrocities.

    en-usDecember 27, 2022

    About this Episode

    Andy Greenberg (https://twitter.com/a_greenberg) brings us a gut wrenching story of how criminal investigators used bitcoin tracing techniques to try to find out who was at the center of a child sexual abuse darkweb website. This story is part of Andy’s new book “Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency”. An affiliate link to the book on Amazon is here: https://amzn.to/3VkjSh7. Sponsors Support for this show comes from Varonis. Do you wonder what your company’s ransomware blast radius is? Varonis does a free cyber resilience assessment that tells you how many important files a compromised user could steal, whether anything would beep if they did, and a whole lot more. They actually do all the work – show you where your data is too open, if anyone is using it, and what you can lock down before attackers get inside. They also can detect behavior that looks like ransomware and stop it automatically. To learn more visit www.varonis.com/darknet. Support for this show comes from Axonius. The Axonius solution correlates asset data from your existing IT and security solutions to provide an always up-to-date inventory of all devices, users, cloud instances, and SaaS apps, so you can easily identify coverage gaps and automate response actions. Axonius gives IT and security teams the confidence to control complexity by mitigating threats, navigating risk, decreasing incidents, and informing business-level strategy — all while eliminating manual, repetitive tasks. Visit axonius.com/darknet to learn more and try it free. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Bitcoin's trading possibilities and freedom can be alluring but its volatile nature and anonymity can lead to criminal activities. Proceed with caution and educate yourself before investing.
    • Cryptocurrency tracing is helping law enforcement catch criminals using Bitcoin for illegal activities such as child exploitation. Users should be cautious about sharing personal information online and contact law enforcement if being extorted.
    • Chainalysis' tool Reactor helps law enforcement trace cryptocurrency transactions of criminal activity, including child exploitation, by mapping all interacting wallets and detecting money-laundering techniques, ultimately leading to successful takedowns.
    • Personal information is required while buying or selling cryptocurrency. Combining different expertise and background, IRS played a crucial role in investigating child abuse networks using cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency tracing can aid in finding and dismantling illegal networks even in dark web corners.
    • IRS Criminal Investigations can go beyond tax crimes and leverage advanced tools to track down criminals, even on the dark web. However, finding users of illegal online platforms may require more creative investigative techniques.
    • Investigators traced the Welcome to Video money to administrators and identified the site owner as Son Jung-woo. They prioritized cases involving child access, leading to the discovery of users like a Homeland Security agent and a vice principal.
    • Law enforcement can use flight records to detain suspects, even if they are not currently in their jurisdiction. Authorities should prioritize victim-focused investigations in cases of child sexual exploitation.
    • If cryptocurrency tracing is used to identify perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, it must be done carefully to ensure the evidence is strong enough to avoid harm to innocent suspects.
    • Collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the public is crucial in bringing child abusers to justice, highlighting the need for stronger measures to curb child exploitation on the dark web.
    • Cross-border illegal activities require international cooperation to bring perpetrators to justice. The takedown of Welcome to Video highlights the trauma of victims and the need for continued effort to protect children from online exploitation.
    • Accessing the site's database and logs through Bitcoin-tracing techniques led to the identification and prosecution of hundreds of offenders committing heinous crimes globally. Seizing the servers proved to be a major breakthrough in this case.
    • The Welcome to Video case showed the sickening reality of child sexual abuse and brought hundreds of abusers to justice, but also highlighted the need for stronger laws and accountability for those who profit from such atrocities.
    • While cryptocurrency may seem private, it is not completely anonymous, and there are potential risks involved. It's important to be cautious and recognize the need for harsher penalties for online crimes to prevent these incidents from happening in the future.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Pros and Cons of Bitcoin

    Bitcoin can be a game-changer in life, as it did for Jack, but it has a dark side too. Its trading aspect fascinated Jack, but his bot did not work well. He lost hope but kept one Bitcoin, which gave him the freedom to quit his job and focus on a podcast. Unlike the stock market, Bitcoin offers trading opportunities 24/7. The rise of Bitcoin led to Andy Greenberg's interest in it, and he wrote a book called 'Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency.' Bitcoin, being an anonymous digital currency, is getting phased out because it has become valuable as people consider it valuable.

    Cryptocurrency tracing for cybercrime investigations

    Cryptocurrency tracing has become an effective tool for law enforcement in investigating cases related to cyber crime. Bitcoin exchanges require identification, but only the exchange has access to the connection between a wallet and a name. However, exchanges in the US need to follow US law, allowing law enforcement to issue subpoenas to access information about a particular wallet. Cryptocurrency tracing has helped investigators track and take down operations like Welcome to Video, a dark web market for child exploitation videos. Criminals using Bitcoin for illegal activities can be caught because Bitcoin is traceable. Users should be cautious when sharing personal information or sending nudes online, and contact law enforcement if they are being extorted.

    Chainalysis' Blockchain Analysis Helps Take Down Child Exploitation Website

    Chainalysis, a company specializing in analyzing the blockchain, helped law enforcement agencies trace cryptocurrency transactions of child sexual abuse material distributors. By using its tool Reactor, they were able to map all the wallets that a particular wallet had interacted with and detect money-laundering techniques. The company's co-founder, Jonathan Levin, assisted the NCA by suggesting they put one of the cryptocurrency addresses of the Welcome to Video website into Reactor. This led to discovering more addresses and eventually tracing the network of distributors, which ultimately helped in taking the site down. The anonymity of the dark web made it challenging for law enforcement agencies to take down such websites. However, blockchain analysis has proven to be effective in combating criminal activity, including child exploitation.

    Tracing Bitcoin on the blockchain helps in identifying individuals who access illegal sites.

    Bitcoin trails can be followed on the blockchain and used to identify individuals who purchase access to illegal sites. While it may be challenging to connect Bitcoin wallets to specific individuals, exchanges require personal information like a driver's license to buy or sell cryptocurrency. The IRS, as financial investigators, played a critical role in the investigation of child abuse networks that used cryptocurrency. The involvement of individuals with different expertise and background made this case fascinating and challenging. Law enforcement agencies can send subpoenas to cryptocurrency exchanges to obtain identifying information on individuals who use these platforms. The case shows that cryptocurrency tracing can help find and dismantle illegal networks, even if they operate in the hidden and obscure corners of the dark web.

    IRS Agents Track Down Child Sexual Abuse Materials Cesspool Using Tor Browser and Blockchain Analytics Tool

    IRS Criminal Investigations, although predominantly tax-related, can investigate any federal crime. Two agents used a Tor browser to investigate Welcome to Video and found it to be a massive child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) cesspool. The site's users sent money to Bitcoin wallets revealing who may be the site owner or admin. The investigators also used the Chainalysis Reactor tool to identify paying members of the site. However, finding the users of the site is much more complicated. Tigran, one of the agents, also scoured the site's coding and discovered IP addresses revealing the thumbnails on the homepage. This was a mistake by the site owner as hosting on Tor normally hides IP addresses.

    Tracing the Money and Ethical Responsibility in the Dark Web Investigation

    The investigators traced the money from Welcome to Video to two exchanges in Korea and one in China, and discovered that the administrators of the site were receiving all the money. They identified Son Jung-woo, a 21-year-old man living in South Korea, as the owner of the dark web site. However, the investigation took an unexpected turn when they found hundreds of users, including a Homeland Security Investigations agent and a vice principal of a high school in Georgia. The investigators realized their ethical responsibility to go after the sensitive cases, such as those with access to children, before going after the server or the site owner. They identified a user of Welcome to Video in Washington, DC, which allowed them to charge the whole case in their jurisdiction.

    Identifying and Detaining a Suspect in the Welcome to Video Case

    Law enforcement officers have to prove that a criminal suspect is located in their jurisdiction to take on a case. In the Welcome to Video case, a suspect was detained after they found evidence linking him to child sexual abuse material. Despite his position, the authorities were worried that this suspect would compromise their investigation. They managed to identify his flight records and detained him when he flew back from the Philippines. Customs and Border Protection has the authority to hold individuals as long as they want, practically. This event had a profound impact on those involved, highlighting the reality of child sexual exploitation and the importance of focusing on the victims when investigating such cases.

    Cryptocurrency tracing helps identify child sexual exploitation perpetrators but requires caution.

    Cryptocurrency tracing can be an effective tool in identifying real cases of sexual exploitation of kids. However, it is important to make sure the evidence is strong enough before raiding suspects' homes and potentially ruining their lives. The criminal investigators at the IRS followed the cryptocurrency payments and identified real perpetrators of child sexual abuse. They also made efforts to track down the help desk administrator on the site to find out if there were more people involved in the crime. It is essential to be cautious while dealing with such sensitive cases and make sure that the evidence is strong enough to prevent any injustice.

    Dark Web Child Exploitation: Tracing the Perpetrator

    US authorities were able to trace a Border Patrol agent involved in uploading real child sexual abuse videos on a dark web site through his bitcoin exchange account and IP address. The agent had been abusing his own step-daughter, who was identified by a journalist through her red flannel shirt. The investigation was conducted jointly by the IRS, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, and local law enforcement to avoid conflict of interest. The journalist, Chris Janczewski, played a crucial role in providing evidence and arresting the agent. The case highlights the need for stronger measures to curb child exploitation on the dark web and the importance of interagency cooperation to bring perpetrators to justice.

    Importance of International Cooperation in Fighting Against Illegal Activities.

    International cooperation is crucial in fighting against illegal activities, especially when it involves crossing borders and jurisdictions. The case of Son Jung-woo and the Welcome to Video site demonstrates the importance of having contacts and building relationships across nations to bring criminals to justice. It also highlights the extent to which abusers can go to cover their tracks and the severe trauma that their victims have to live with. The successful takedown of the site and arrest of the perpetrators is a testament to the hard work and dedication of law enforcement agencies, but there is still more work to be done to protect children from online exploitation and child sexual abuse.

    Seizing "Welcome to Video" Server Leads to Global Crackdown on Child Abuse

    The investigation and seizure of the Welcome to Video server, along with the use of Bitcoin-tracing techniques, provided law enforcement with the evidence needed to take down a global network of child sexual abuse. With the server logs and database, they were able to see which users were watching, uploading, and paying for videos, leading to the identification and prosecution of hundreds of offenders around the world. The scale of the site was enormous, with more child sexual abuse videos than ever seen before, incentivizing the creation of new and unique abuse videos. The seizure of the server was a major breakthrough in the case, providing a wealth of evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.

    The Welcome to Video case and the importance of justice and accountability.

    The Welcome to Video case resulted in the arrest of 337 people worldwide and the rescue of 23 children from sexual abuse. Despite the horror of the crimes committed by the users of the site, some committed suicide or had tragic cases, showing a sickness beyond imagination. However, these users were brought to justice, unlike Son Jung-woo, the admin of the site, who made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the site's suffering and served less than two years because of South Korea's badly written child abuse laws. Despite the impact of cryptocurrency tracing cases, the Welcome to Video case had the biggest impact on people's lives, highlighting the importance of justice and accountability.

    Cryptocurrency users should be aware of the risks involved with lack of anonymity and law enforcement's ability to subpoena exchanges for information.

    Cryptocurrency is not as private and anonymous as believed, law enforcement can subpoena exchanges for information, and even encrypted protocols can be broken. Cryptocurrency users may mistakenly believe they have financial privacy, but the untraceable currency can lead investigators straight to their door. It's important to be cautious and aware of the risks involved and the lack of true anonymity. South Korea's lack of harsh penalties for online crimes has caused an outcry, but legislation has been proposed to fix these issues. It's crucial for global communities to recognize the severity of online crimes and work towards harsher sentences to prevent these crimes from happening in the future.

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