By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — A Union County resident facing 31 charges for allegedly exchanging digital photos of naked children is among 10 Pennsylvania men uncovered in an online sting that used file-sharing networks, the latest and fastest-growing method of trading data on the Internet.
Daniel Criswell, 42, of Lewisburg, was arrested and charged with 15 counts of distribution of child pornography, 15 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.
The Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a mix of law enforcement that performs undercover online investigations to find sexual exploitation of children, conducted the sting.
Investigations took up to a few months, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said. Agents conducted separate, unrelated online investigations and found numerous images and video files containing depictions of children as young as 3 engaged in extremely sexually graphic acts and poses.
The agents determined the content was downloaded and shared from each of the defendants’ computers.
This investigation involved peer-to-peer file-sharing network programs — BitTorrent among them — special software programs that allow data sharing among the software users on the same file-sharing online network.
Peer to peer, or P2P, has become a popular method of communications to procure digital media files of child pornography, according to the attorney general’s office, allowing for easy trade of data among those linked.
The attorney general’s office explained that P2P works when the user opens the application on his computer and searches using a keyword. That search is sent over a network of computers using compatible P2P software. The results are displayed, and the user chooses which to download from the host computer. Several files may download at the same time.
The images are stored by default on the computer in a shared folder, where they stay until moved or deleted.
Between Aug. 9 and Aug. 17, attorney general investigators went online to identify those sharing and possessing child pornography using the BitTorrent file-sharing network. They were able to connect directly to Criswell’s computer, the Internet protocol address of which said it was making files available publicly for download.
According to the affidavit filed in Union County, investigators were able to download 304 pieces of data the host computer made available.
Through publicly available records, investigators found the Internet Protocol address was assigned to Windstream Communications Inc. Through a court order, Windstream released its subscriber information and investigators found Criswell to be the subscriber of that protocol address.
According to the affidavit, investigators obtained a search warrant Nov. 4 for Criswell’s home. A preliminary search of Criswell’s computer yielded 25 files of child pornography.
He waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday and is scheduled in court Feb. 3 for his formal arraignment. He remains in Union County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.
All men are charged with counts for online sharing, downloading and distribution of child pornography, the attorney general’s office said.
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