Microsoft Windows thwarts police efforts to cut child porn
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October 26, 2009 11:00pm
THE much lauded latest Microsoft Windows operating system could make it harder for police to prosecute child pornography suspects, experts warn.
The hi-tech encryption available on the new Windows 7 could enable criminals to bury pornographic images and files deep in their computer systems, making it impossible for police to uncover the evidence.
Child safety advocate Hetty Johnson has called on Microsoft to rectify the problem.
Queensland University of Technology cyber-law expert Adrian McCullagh said criminals could use the sophisticated encryption software of Microsoft Windows 7 to hide child pornography and other evidence.
"Microsoft has long been criticised for inadequate security – now it has implemented a robust security system that will bring problems along with its good," Dr McCullagh said. "There are legitimate reasons for encryption, but there are also criminal reasons."
The problem of criminals using encryption to hide evidence was raised by ASIO more than 12 years ago.
"Ten years ago very few people had access to those encryption devices, now it is becoming extremely main-stream. With so many people using Microsoft, within years most people will have access to this technology," Dr McCullagh said.
He called for replication of UK laws that made it a crime to refuse to decrypt data requested by police.
"These laws would help police, law enforcement agencies and anti-terrorist police."
Ms Johnson, a member of the Federal Government working committee on cyber safety, said she was stunned Microsoft would produce such software.
"If this new product gives paedophiles protection to keep harming children I would be extremely disappointed. I would expect the company to take moves to rectify this."
Australian law enforcement authorities have powers to obtain warrants to use Trojan horse technology to secretly unlock computers.
But Mr McCullagh said it was not adequate if police only found a suspect after a crime. "They need to act quickly and legal powers to force criminals to surrender decryption keys or face a possible jail term."