According to Jay Abbott, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Indianapolis, the FBI “have tools” to identify criminals on the darknet. During an interview on “sextortion” with Indianapolis news center WIBC, Abbott explained the darknet (internet anonymity) and a the connection to extortion—in light of two recent cases. For some reason, the “abduction” of Chloe Ayling in Italy received a mention. The other, more relevant case, involved a California man who allegedly used the darknet for extortion and various baseless threats.
Underneath the subheading titled “The Dangers of Anonymity,” WIBC conveyed Abbott’s description of anonymity. “When you use this, when you access it, you can communicate, make it practically impossible for anyone to identify your IP address,” the FBI agent explained. “If you’re a person that is trying to take advantage of a young woman and you don’t want to be identified, you might send them an e-mail over the Tor network,” said Abbott. According to WIBC, Abbot then said that the darknet could be the start of extortion. (Presumably not that the darknet causes “sextortion,” although his exact words were not in print).
Abbott spoke of how important it was to have privacy on the internet, followed by a stereotypical “going dark” monologue:
“Soon there will be places and methods on the internet that we will not be able to penetrate and identify criminals on. How much privacy as a society do we want to have, and there are those who say we should have complete privacy of things we do on the internet. You have to balance that, though, I think, with how much security as a community, as a nation, as a society, do we want to make sure we safeguard?”
In Abbott’s opinion, the “sextortionist” starts with the upper hand. He said the extortionist, in many cases, extorted “good kids” by hacking their webcams. He claimed, not long after the going dark bit, that victims should contact authorities in these situations. “We can help, he said. “We do have tools in our toolbox that allow us to tackle problems where persons try to obscure their identities on the internet in order to conduct crimes.”
The California case, announced by the DoJ on August 7, involved “young victims” from Indiana and a 26-year-old from California. The 26-year-old, a Bakersfield, California man named “Buster Hernandez,” threatened to use explosives at schools in Indiana, made “cyber threats,” and produced child pornography. “Terrorizing young victims through the use of social media and hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet will not be tolerated by this office,” said United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler. “Those who think they can outwit law enforcement and are above being caught should think again. Mr. Hernandez’s reign of terror is over.”
Buster Hernandez extorted several young women in Indiana under a fake name—through Facebook.