Illegal software allowed to be used for just cause?

By: Roman Tol
On: May 30, 2007
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About Roman Tol
Roman Tol is an Ecommerce specialist. Both techical and as a marketeer. Hands on and with vision. Keyword: Innovation.


On March 3rd 2005 Joseph Catterson, a British 44 year old man, was arrested in England because it was suspected he possessed child pornography on his computer. Previous to his arrest Catterson had removed all 1500 pornographic photographs and deleted the search history from his computer. Yet, the police were still able to trace the illegal pornography. Consequently last Sunday Teesside’s court sentenced Catterson to enter a 3 year rehabilitation program.

The police were able to find proof the computer once contained child pornography with the use of a keylogger. A keylogger is an illegal spyware application that saves the keyboard actions of the user. A keylogger is installed without the knowledge of the user by means of a virus or a software package containing spyware. A keylogger is walware and for that reason against the law.

Just for the record, I am 100% against any forms of illegal pornography and am very pleased Catterson is charged. Yet, I am not completely sure the actions taken by the police are proper. If a keylogger is illegal then it is not right when authorities make use of it, even if the cause is just. I assume the walware was installed before the police confiscated Cattersons computer, still, I recon the use of it is questionable and perhaps even illegitimate. What if in the future someone gets arrested on milder charges, say possession of Spiderman 3 in divx format: is the police allowed to use spyware to gather evidence?

I recon the British police did not put the keylogger records forward as evidence, but used it to force the suspect to confess, still this may lead to further breaches of privacy; following this logic governmental authorities may distribute walware and use it, as long if it is not put forward as proof but used as a means to pressure suspects.

Luckily I saw Spiderman 3 in the cinema… actually let me rephrase that…. sadly I saw Spiderman 3 in the cinema… I wasted 10 euro’s on a terrible movie.

9 Responses to “Illegal software allowed to be used for just cause?”
  • May 31, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    did the cops install the keylogger? Unlikely, yes?

  • May 31, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    the question remains valid: are results from a keylogger able to be put forward as evidence in court?

  • May 31, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    well, the damage had been done, might as well go with it

    i dont see a problem with this until the police is actually allowed to install keyloggers or similar software. That’s unacceptable

  • June 1, 2007 at 1:12 am

    Most computers that are infected with spyware and walware are because they have been used for downloading porn. Often porn files contain viruses and other unwanted software. The keylogger on Cattersons computer most probably got installed on his computer via the same porn he downloaded.

    How about this – it might sound a little paranoid and farfetched – what if police or other forms of authority spread a file containing (child) pornography and with it a virus/keylogger/tracker as bate to lure in pedophiles? My immediate response would be, go for it, use it to pull a confession or a way to locate these perverts…. however, coming back to the divx example, what about milder instances? Can copyright watchdogs use similar techniques? Where do you draw the line?

    Even if the keylogger or any other form of walware/spyware is installed prior to its examination, I think its use in court is questionable. Cattersons case is new; I don’t think the use of spyware to gather evidence has been done before, it therefore seems logical to investigate upon this point.

  • June 2, 2007 at 1:55 am

    Porn files as far as i know are video files, not applications

    If people wouldve discovered how to infect PCs through mp3s or mpegs or avis, all hell wouldve broken loose long ago

    its true however that if you browse illegal sites – i have had this experience with crack/keygen sites etc – that certain scripts will try to exploit loopholes in IE or FF, so there you might be right; but its still a long shot for official authorities to get involved here

    If the police would be spreading illegal software in whatever way, I would oppose it. But I don’t see how they effectively could short of hiring hackers to specifically target individuals. Without them, they’d have to run a child pornography website (since regular porn is legal) and that in itself would already be too disturbing.

    By the way, don’t you mean “malware” ?

  • June 2, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    nope ‘walware’, which is similar to malware (and spyware and adware), however there is a technical difference, which I don’t fully understand myself.

    viruses get encoded in the codec! avi files are compressed with the use of a codec, usually divx, xvid or radius. these can easily be infected, yet, modern virus scanners block these files. in the past – the napster and kazaa era – many computers did get damaged by trojan horses (some of which contained spyware) and other variants.

    However, the above post concerns someone who downloaded pictures. These pictures come from illegal (and therefore unprotected) websites. Your point is correct, in addition though, I like to say, these photographs can very easily be infected too (via the compression + via the packing, zipping, rar).

    And now for the most common way to infect someone’s computer: spread a file saying something along the lines of “hot-chick”, yet, don’t have the file contain a hot chick, but something evil (for instance a code redirecting the user to a server containing auto-install software). Authorities (police) could do this (they are not spreading illegal pictures but suggest they do; comparable to a police officer asking you to buy cocaine, while never intending to do this, and arrest you when you agree to do so.

    Okay and finaly, these illegal photographs probably did not get spread via common peer2peer software (such as k-lite, bittorrent, edonkey/mule, dc++, but via programs that get blocked by your firewall and your virus scanner (meaning, the user has to shut these off in order to download files).

  • June 2, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    if codecs could spread viruses dont you think someone nasty wouldve encoded some shrek/spiderman film with it and watch chaos ensue? I have never heard of video files with corrupt codecs. Could you supply a link?

    And also one for WalWare? Google search doesnt seem too fruitful

    And I still can’t see how the police would go about this in a specific targeted way.. You can’t just blanket-send “hot 8yr old” files to the bulk of the internet and assume that only those interested in child pornography would open it. The scenario simply doesn’t seem feasible.

    Ill take your point about there likely being sealed off secret protected online environments where nasty people can get child pornography, but I also imagine these would be pretty secure and clean.. if anything, I imagine child pornography fanciers are extremely careful

  • June 2, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    dude you should download more movies… you’ve never encountered your player requesting to download the ‘missing’ codec from the internet? hasn’t your virus scanner ever blocked a file? I will, however, take back the point saying viruses can be encoded in the codec, I recon that’s incorrect. The virus gets installed after the user gives permission to be redirected to an unsafe website.

    about the conspiracy theory; read “paranoid and farfetched”! However, the technology is out there, why dismiss the possibility of authorities using it? but you’re right, my scenario (which is an example) is full of holes.

    and about innocent people opening a file which contains a virus… leading to a possible false arrest…. well that’s when the keylogger comes into the story; it saves all your keystrokes, thus investigators can see how many times you opened the specific file and how many similar ones you viewed.

    and about pornography fanciers being extremely careful…. well do you know this guy called Catterson?

    If you wish to wipe walware from your computer… check or check this one

  • April 30, 2010 at 4:52 am

    The guy was a retard and mental case. He should never come out of jail.

    Police probably created a honey pot just for him and got him to click on too many images and OK buttons.

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