Software enables investigators to delve deeper into child-porn file-sharing
State investigators searching for people who trade child porn online are conducting broader, deeper sweeps of file-sharing networks. They're using software that better spots videos and pictures moving between computers, law enforcement officials say.
“We are now able to delve into areas we never previously were able to search,” said Deputy Attorney General Anthony Marmo, who is based Downtown.
The state Attorney General's Office made its first arrest last week using software and training provided by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, operated by the Department of Justice.
The software scans peer-to-peer, file-sharing networks that users enter with a password. Once in, they can search and download material from other users.
That's how an investigator spotted child pornography in the file of an Armstrong Cable user, according to court documents.
The cable company, under subpoena, identified the user as Todd Carbonara, 29, of Connellsville, who authorities charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, both felonies.
“It does illustrate the misconception that people have that this is all very confidential, because they open up their collection to other people,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Carbonara is in the Fayette County Jail awaiting a Feb. 14 hearing.
“Technology is ever-changing,” said Dave Peifer, commander of the Pennsylvania Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and an investigator in the child abuse unit for the Delaware County district attorney. He joins the Attorney General's Office on Monday. “We're learning new software and learning how we can better protect children.”
A state police investigation that started in a peer-to-peer network led to the home of Seven Fields Mayor Edward Bayne. Troopers served a search warrant on the Bayne residence last month but filed no charges. Bayne declined to comment.
Court documents show that a trooper scanning a file-sharing network spotted someone in the Bayne home sharing child pornography files.
State police Cpl. John O'Neill said his agency is adding five forensic analysts to a computer crimes unit that investigates child pornography and other electronic crimes, bringing that unit up to 35 members.
“We now use Facebook, where we didn't before,” O'Neill said. “There's a lot of information out there. Technology is changing, and we're educating ourselves.”
In 2011, O'Neill said, the computer crimes unit and affiliated law enforcement conducted more than 2,900 forensic examinations and filed child pornography charges in 242 cases. O'Neill would not talk about software programs state police use, saying it could compromise investigations.
Finkelhor said one program, Roundup, allows investigators to search for phrases commonly used in child pornography files. In the Carbonara case, an investigator searched in the Gnutella network, which uses software including Limewire and Frostwire to share digital media files.
The state task force received $466,000 in federal funding to cover training and salaries of four staffers from July 1, 2012, through June 30, Peifer said.
“We need more personnel,” he said. “The more we have, the quicker we can get to cases in a timely manner.”
In 2011, investigations led to more than 5,700 arrests nationwide, more than 40 percent of which resulted in plea deals, according to the Justice Department.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Federal grand jury reviewing Liquor Control Board violations, sources tell Trib
- Bill that would end district-level review of homeschooling in Pennsylvania goes to Corbett
- Pennsylvania school performance scores stuck in limbo
- Justice blames feud for his ouster; chief of court admits he did seek to remove him
- Pa. town can keep Jim Thorpe’s body
- Eric Frein lookalike: I keep getting stopped
- State police have seized twice as much heroin this year as in all of 2013
- Attorneys want ‘Kids for Cash’ figure’s windfall frozen
- Customers rarely utilize right to cancel a contract
- Sentencing in Johnstown car wash parking lot slaying delayed
- Sheriff’s sale delayed for historic Conneaut Lake Park