In to inappropriate material, in particular, criminal activity


In this new age of Information, the Internet has made all types of informationreadily available. Some of this information can be very useful, some can bemalicious. Child pornography, also known as Paedophilia is one of theseproblems. Any one person can find child pornography on the internet with just afew clicks of the mouse using any search engine. Despite webmaster’s and lawenforcement officials’ efforts to control child pornography and shut downillegal sites, new sites are posted using several ways to mask their identity.

The Internet provides a new world for curious children. It offers entertainment,opportunities for education, information and communication. The Internet is atool that opens a window of opportunities. As Internet use grows, so do therisks of children being exposed to inappropriate material, in particular,criminal activity by paedophiles and child pornographers. Many children firstcome in contact with the Internet at a very young age. Some children becomevictims of child pornography through close relatives who may have abused them.Some children become involved with chat services or newsgroup threads.

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It isusually through these sites that they meet child pornographers. Children may beasked to send explicit pictures of themselves taken either by a digital cameraor scanned from a polaroid. The pornographer will then post the pictures ontheir web site, sometimes hiding them through encryption, steganography orpassword protecting them using a javascript or applet. Certain efforts have beenmade to control child pornography through legislation. In 1977 the SexualExploitation of Children Act was put into Legislation. (U.S.

Code : Title 18,Section 2251-2253) The law prohibits the use of a minor in the making ofpornography, the transport of a child across state lines, the taking of apornographic picture of a minor, and the production and circulation of materialsadvertising child pornography. It also prohibits the transfer, sale, purchase,and receipt of minors when the purpose of such transfer, sale, purchase, orreceipt is to use the child or youth in the production of child pornography. Thetransportation, importation, shipment, and receipt of child pornography by anyinterstate means, including by mail or computer, is also prohibited. The ChildProtection Act of 1984 (U.S. Code : Title 18, Section 2251-2255) defines anyoneyounger than the age of 18 as a child. Therefore, a sexually explicit photographof anyone 17 years of age or younger is child pornography.

On November 7, 1986,the U.S. Congress enacted the Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act (U.S. Code: Title 18, Section 2251-2256) that banned the production and use ofadvertisements for child pornography and included a provision for civil remediesof personal injuries suffered by a minor who is a victim. It also raised theminimum sentences for repeat offenders from imprisonment of not less than twoyears to imprisonment of not less than five years.

On November 18, 1988, theU.S. Congress enacted the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act (U.S.

Code : Title 18, Section 2251-2256) that made it unlawful to use a computer totransmit advertisements or visual depictions of child pornography and itprohibited the buying, selling, or otherwise obtaining temporary custody orcontrol of children for the purpose of producing child pornography. On November29, 1990, the U.S.

Congress enacted US Code : Title 18, Section 2252 making it afederal crime to possess three or more depictions of child pornography that weremailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce or that were produced usingmaterials that were mailed or shipped by any means, including by computer. Withthe passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it is a federal crime foranyone using the mail, interstate or foreign commerce, to persuade, induce, orentice any individual younger than the age of 18 to engage in any sexual act forwhich the person may be criminally prosecuted. The Child Pornography PreventionAct of 1996 amends the definition of child pornography to include that whichactually depicts the sexual conduct of real minor children and that whichappears to be a depiction of a minor engaging in sexual conduct. Computer,photographic, and photocopy technology is amazingly competent at creating andaltering images that have been “morphed” to look like children eventhough those photographed may have actually been adults.

People who alterpornographic images to look like children can now be prosecuted under the law.Abstracts for these laws can be found at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/.The current legislation in place at the federal and state level clearly defineschild pornography, and the standard sentencing for offenders. It also clearlydefines a minor and what activity involving a minor is illegal. What thelegislation does not do is set the standards for retreival of evidence from anelectronic device, namely computers.

Also, the current legislation does not setstandards for decrypting child pornography that is protected. One example is theuse of Steganography. Steganography uses a bitstream algorithm to hideinformation in the form of raw binary code within other files suitable to holdinformation. The most commonly used form of Steganography uses the leastsignificant bit of a bitmap image to store virtually any type of information.

Every three bytes in a bitmap file represents a pixel. Each of these bytesrepresents a level of red, blue or green. Since there are eight bits in a byte,there can be up to 256 different combinations of 1’s and 0’s in a single byte.In the case of a bitmap, each unique combination of 1’s and 0’s represents alevel of red, blue or green. When the colors are combined, there is thepossibility of 256^3 or 4,294,967,296 different colors. In order to hideinformation within a bitmap file, the file in which you want to hide must becopied bit for bit into the last bit of each byte in the bitmap file.

This willchange each pixel of the bitmap file at the most by 1 / 2,097,152, depending onwhether the bit being copied is the same as the bit it is replacing. Since thehuman eye can only physically distinguish between an average of 250 differentcolors, a difference of 1 / 2,097,152 is indistinguishable. Since only one bitof the target bitmap is being used to store information, the source file can atmost be 1/8 of the size of the target file. In the case of a bitmap, a highresolution picture can easily hold a lower resolution picture that may containchild pornography. Legally, if a bitmap image is found to contain a hidden imageusing steganography, there is no legal procedure for extracting that evidencefor a court case. The prosecution would have to somehow explain howsteganography works to a jury, and to the judge, and would have to prove in someway that the information found did in fact come from that bitmap file.

Currently, evidence found in this manner is inadmissible in court because thereis no legislation dealing with this type of evidence. Also, there is no standardapproved software that will decode these files. There are several softwareprograms readily available on the internet which will encode or decodeinformation using the least significant bit algorithm. One example is calledHide and Seek. Anyone can obtain this software free of charge, making it easyfor child pornographers to hide their work. Another problem is illicit materialthat is stored on a remote computer. If the perpetrator of child pornographydoes not own the computer that the material is stored on, it would be difficultfor law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant to search a third party’scomputer.

Also, there is currently no legislation that defines what space an amachine belongs to a specific do.

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