CISE Seminar: February 7, 2020 – Brian Levine, UMass Amherst

BU Photonics Building
8 St. Mary’s Street, PHO 211

Brian Levine
UMass Amherst

The Role of Darknets in Internet-based Crimes Against Children


Warning: this talk will contain frank discussion of crimes against children. Every day, sexual exploitation crimes against children are captured as images and shared on the Internet. In addition to the immediate harms, these crimes represent long-lasting, enormous privacy violations of the child victims. Such child exploitation materials (i.e., child pornography) is often posted to unmanaged forums, such as file-sharing networks and anonymous servers. Unfortunately, imagery can remain available on the Internet for many years, extending the privacy violation potentially throughout a victim’s entire life. And these materials are used by perpetrators to groom new victims, who are shown images to normalize the abuse.

In this talk, I will review measurements of Internet-based crimes against children from our research and that of others. I will describe how we have designed and deployed forensic tools that have allowed for the proactive rescue of children, especially those too young to speak and report their abuse, and others silenced by fear. And I will discuss the tension between the intent of privacy enhancing technologies and how they are unfortunately leveraged for this crime. Darknets are intended to increase privacy and free speech, which are among the most critical issues of our time. I will argue that after decades of research, darknets are unfortunately causing much more harm than good in practice. They have allowed perpetrators of many crimes to organize like never before. At the same time, deployed darknets have placed those who need free speech most — whistleblowers, dissidents, and journalists — in danger.

This presentation includes work with collaborator Brian Lynn of UMass Amherst and others.

Brian Levine is a Professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at UMass Amherst, which he joined in 1999. He is the director of its Cybersecurity Institute. His research is focused on network security, privacy, and forensics, including investigations of Internet-based crimes against children.

Faculty Host: Ari Trachtenberg
Student Host: Mahroo Bahreinian