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How the Feds shook hands with an internet pedophile

Crime and punishment in the digital age

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The Flyers

The #ssgroup leaders grew increasing desperate. They didn't yet know much about Digerati, other than he was using the University of Pennsylvania computer system for internet access. Incredulous that university authorities didn't respond to three separate warnings that one of their students was using their computer system to prey on young boys, they decided to make their case publicly.

Members of the group hacked into one of the websites Digerati was using to host his webcam chats. They copied images and excerpts from the chats and transferred them to a flyer headlined "Internet child predator." One of the members then hacked the university's print servers and caused the flyer to spontaneously print on hundreds of machines across campus.

Around the same time, the group also hacked into the university's internal email system and siphoned thousands of emails in an attempt to learn more about Digerati. They hit the jackpot. Not only did they discover that the hacker was a student named Ryan Goldstein, they also learned he was under suspicion for a computer breach in February 2006 that brought down a server at the university's SEAS, or School of Engineering & Applied Science.

As they sifted through the messages, it became clear that school administrators had taken notice of the mysterious flyer and were considering whether Goldstein was guilty of more than just hacking the SEAS server.

Among the administrators was Helen Anderson, a senior director in the SEAS IT group.

"Though the flyers themselves apparently weren't his doing, they may be evidence that there was a separate conduct violation by Ryan at Kings Court," Anderson wrote in a group email, referring to the dorm building where Goldstein lived.

Anderson's message was part of 245 pages of investigation-related email that was posted on the internet. University officials declined to comment on the breach, but an FBI spokesman confirmed the authenticity of several of the messages. University officials also denied requests to discuss whether Goldstein breached the university's code of conduct. (He is currently attending classes at the Philadelphia-based college).

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