Australian Detectives Take Down Global Dark Net Child Porn Site and Save Victims

Regrettably, child porn operations on the web know no boundaries and extend the world over. Australian detectives in a Queensland anti-pedophile taskforce targeted a global Internet bulletin board with 45,500 members. In a 10-month sting operation, the detectives identified users in Australia, the US, the UK, and Europe. And equally important, the detectives rescued a number of children who were being sexually exploited.

The site was on the dark web and used encryption technology to mask the identiies of its users. The detectives focused on identifying the administrator and then took over the site. They immediately shut down access to new users and then worked round the clock to identify current users.

Taskforce Argos were able to figure out the identify of the administrator by zooming in on his unusual greeting of “Hiyas.” Through Internet sleuthing, they narrowed down a huge list of people that used it and found a Facebook page with a photograph of a VW. Police used the visible registration plates to ID the man as Shannon McCoole.

Background checks were highly alarming, since McCoole fit the profile of a child molester—living alone, no recent partners, and immersed in child-chare work. The man worked for Families SA as a family care worker and was in the position to control children. Detectives immediately put McCoole under surveillance and arrested him four days later.

Evidence inside McCoole’s house linked him to the site. He had a freckle on his finger that matched one image, along with metadata on a camera. McCoole has since been sentenced to 35 years in jail for transmitting child porn over the Internet and sexually abusing at least seven children in his care.

When detectives took over the site pretending to be McCoole, they worked with investigators around the world in real time as the agencies executed search warrants. While this investigation was an unqualified success, Australian police fear it may be the tip of the iceberg.

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