February 2, 1998 1:10 PM PST

Hacker group battles child porn

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A secret society that hunts the Net to reveal the identities of alleged pedophiles and child pornographers has a message for those who think there's too much media hype about the problem: Believe what you hear.

Members of a group called Ethical Hackers Against Pedophilia (EHAP) are using their high-tech


Brian Cooley talks with "Oracle," secretary, Ethical Hackers Against Pedophilia (EHAP)
cracking talents to find out the identity and physical location of people they say post child pornography within newsgroups, chat rooms, and Web sites. The 17-member nonprofit group also says it tries to determine the sources of video streaming sites that feature children being sexually assaulted in real time.

"The pedophiles that are distributing child pornography online are skirting the law by remaining anonymous. We decided to use the skills that we possess as hackers, engineers, and teachers to educate the public that hackers aren't all bad guys, and to help law enforcement in apprehending the child pornographers," said EHAP's secretary, "Oracle," who asked that his real name not be published.

"As long as the people are arrested and the kids aren't hurt anymore, every one of us is willing to accept responsibility for our actions as long as one kid is helped," he added.

EHAP may go so far as to dig up the Social Security numbers of people it suspects are producing and distributing child porn on the Net. Under the guise of a confidential informant, EHAP then passes on these details to various law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI.

It's virtually impossible to know if EHAP's tips have led to any investigations or arrests, though the group says its information has been put to work. Still, its vigilante tactics raise privacy concerns, as well as serious questions about law enforcement's possible use of information that could have been obtained illegally.

According to the FBI, the Net increasingly is being used to lure children to physical meetings, which could lead to abduction or abuse, and there has been a boom in child pornography being trafficked online. These acts violate federal law.

During two congressional hearings last year, FBI officials told lawmakers they are working to stop the rise in these illegal acts through the bureau's Crimes Against Children initiative.

"The FBI has investigated more than 70 cases involving pedophiles traveling to meet undercover agents or officers posing as juveniles for the purpose of engaging in an illicit sexual relationship," Stephen Wiley, chief of the FBI's violent crime and major offenders section, testified in November before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime.

The FBI has launched other special programs, such as Innocent Images, in which agents go online and portray themselves as children and crack down on those who solicit encounters with them. The program, which is run by the Baltimore, Maryland, FBI field office, also serves as a clearinghouse for tips and information regarding suspected online crimes against children. The program was started in 1994 after local agents uncovered an online child porn ring while searching for an abducted boy.

The 13-year-old boy, George Burdynski of Prince Georges County, Maryland, has never been found. But the program has lead to more than 90 arrests as well as the development of online crime fighting techniques. For instance, in October, three Californians were collectively sentenced to 60 years in prison for running the so-called Orchid Club, an international service that used the Net to distribute child pornography to its members.

Despite growing efforts by the FBI and organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, EHAP says its private campaign is vital, as these agencies don't have the full-time resources to combat online child pornography. EHAP also readily admits that it would be unconstitutional for law enforcement to use some of its methods.

"We're extremely careful about who we hack. There are so many people trading child porn out there, but we go after the people who are producing the material. That's who we hunt," Oracle said. "Law enforcement are restricted in ways we're not--but I'm not saying that we break the law."

EHAP is not the first group to use its own devices in an effort to assist law enforcement in tracking down people who they suspect use the Net to perpetrate crimes.

For example, a worldwide network of Internet users known as the CyberAngels provide online safety tips and work with law enforcement to stop the trading of online pornography. Other Net users have been known to shut down chat rooms or flame those who they deem pedophiles or sexual predators. CyberAngels doesn't support the electronic harassment of others. EHAP keeps its methods confidential.

"Although we would appreciate any information these individuals may have, to violate the law to get the information is not acceptable," said George Grotz, a spokesman for the FBI's San Francisco office. "But how many pedophiles would come to us and say their site had been broken into?" Still, the FBI and other child protection agencies say they need all the help they can get.

"Here in the San Francisco office, we have neither the time or resources to surf the Net looking for child pornography," Grotz added. "That said, we do respond aggressively when information is brought to our attention from outside sources, or if we develop information during the process of another investigation."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is supported by the Justice Department, also expanded its efforts to encompass online activity. As announced in December at the White House-endorsed Children's Internet Summit in Washington, the center will launch a Web site on March 1 to collect tips regarding online child porn and suspected crimes against children.

"It's a huge problem that is as new as the Internet. For law enforcement, it's not easy to handle," Todd Mitchell, program advocate for the exploited child unit, said today.

"Parents can't leave their child in front of a computer for hours and hours where they can stumble upon pornography or be solicited in a chat room. They have to teach their kids some safety guidelines," he said. Regarding private citizens' groups such as EHAP and CyberAngels, he said there are legitimate concerns, but that community activism is needed.

"If they work in conjunction with law enforcement, it can be something that is a nice partnership between law enforcement and the community. If they take the law into their own hands, it could do more harm than good," Mitchell said.

2 comments

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my name is Lamont cordaro i was involved with a anti pedo group called hackergroup-109 we done what we thaught was the right thing out of 4000 targets in 4 countrys and 43 states 40 seen jail sells we...me and my codefendants did more than the pedos.........we got caught becouse one of the targets got scared turned him self in pleebargand for probation we did years ...it was my first time ever in any kind of trouble and now almost 10 years later...cant find any good work ....whos gonna hire me the feds yah right all thay had to do was put us on payroll ............
Posted by 1ncehg109 (1 comment )
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EHAP SUCKS!!!

Go Anonymous Pedo Hunters! :P
Posted by Aha2Y (1 comment )
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