In 2015, the FBI hacked Tor to identify users of child sex websites. Now a judge has thrown out evidence acquired during the investigation. The original hack saw the FBI seize servers running a paedophile website called Playpen. But rather than shutting it down, the agents continued to run the servers, using software to identify the real IP and MAC addresses of users, despite the fact they were using Tor to access the site. ISPs were forced to hand over customer details and arrests followed.
But the so-called “network investigative technique” used to obtain those IP and MAC addresses was found to have been used without appropriate consent. That’s the outcome of a case against Alex Levin, one of those arrested during the investigation, writes Motherboard. According to Judge William G. Young of the District of Massachusetts:
Based on the foregoing analysis, the Court concludes that the NIT warrant was issued without jurisdiction and thus was void… It follows that the resulting search was conducted as though there were no warrant at all…Since warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable, and the good-faith exception is inapplicable, the evidence must be excluded.
It’s likely that others who were arrested as a result of the FBI investigation will seek to invoke a similar defence to suppress the evidence.
Last month, the FBI refused to divulge the method it used to perform its network investigative technique.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby; source image via Shutterstock