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FBI Director James Comey has been widely taken to task for his discussion of what some people trivialize, calling, “kiddie porn”. I will engage in no such trivialization.
Child rape matters. We need better security and better protection for everyone, particularly vulnerable people. Better security is better protection for all those we care for.
Kids who are unable to secure their information webcams are blackmailed into abuse. Children who believe their connections to be private and secure are vulnerable.
The offenders have targeted … children, young people, have ready access to the Internet, smart phones and other technology that will allow perpetrators to contact them,. Secure usable technology can lock strangers out of our devices. Making the technology impossible to secure does not protect these kids. An attacker who combines a webcam with audio surveillance may appear all-knowing to the victimized child.
Online vulnerability is a risk. Right now, it is difficult for young people to secure their machines. Parents will find such security almost impossible to manage. Criminals who use children for sexual gratification will of course not have the moral fiber to refuse to use backdoors provided for law enforcement. The wiretapping scandal in Greece, where attackers used lawful intercept capacities of the Ericsson AXE switch show that attackers will use any backdoor.
As automobiles (like information technologies) have become more powerful and complex, we have added safety and security measures. These include seatbelts, airbags, and anti-lock brakes as we understand that a safer infrastructure means a safer world. The same applies online. Security and privacy protect everyone, from teens who unwisely post on Snapchat to young people who can be caught up in webs of deceit. Many schools offer driver education classes. More schools should offer online safety classes.
What we have not done is increase the fragility of the transportation infrastructure. A weak infrastructure makes it impossible for people to protect themselves. That includes girls and young women, many of whom are recruited into exploitive situations because they were unable to protect themselves online. Making safe choices requires a safe infrastructure.
A secure infrastructure protects everyone. An insecure infrastructure protects only the anonymity of the criminals. Criminals use identity theft and credit card theft to obtain legitimate services, such as domain names and network access. Criminals can avail themselves of botnets (networks of subverted machines available for hire on the black market) to ensure anonymity. Children cannot.
Greater coordination between law enforcement and the computing sciences is valuable for everyone. A weakened, structurally insecure infrastructure that can offer neither security nor privacy to anyone is hazardous for all of us.
New technologies can help with the identification of exploited children. My next blog post will explain the potential of three of these. I applaud those and offer not only my own limited technical expertise, but also I know the very technologists decrying a vulnerable infrastructure will step forward to help. Computer security professionals are natural allies in keeping people safe online.
Jean Camp is the Director of the Security Informatics Program at Indiana University Bloomington.