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How are crimes detected on the internet?

The World Wide Web has opened up all sorts of new possibilities to users. You can search and find just about anything your heart desires without ever leaving your home. As a matter of fact, you could literally never leave your home and still travel the world -- purchasing goods, reading books, playing interactive games with people you never met, talking to strangers across the world -- and committing crimes.

When it comes to the latter, did you ever wonder who might be watching or reading your content? While it might seem that you are in your own personal home, doing your own personal business, you should keep in mind that the internet is not a part of your personal space. It is public, and what may seem secure may not really be.

For instance, saving files to an internet application like Dropbox, recently got one U.S. Army reservist arrested on charges of child pornography. Dropbox is an application that allows you to store and share files on a shared internet server instead of on your own local computer or local server. Unless you share the files that you upload, you would assume that no one else can access them. However, remember that Dropbox is a publicly shared server and not your own private space -- and they have a right to search your files uploaded to their site.

In the case of the army reservist, Dropbox actually turned the guy in to authorities to investigate, reporting that he was sharing child pornography using his Dropbox account. While Dropbox did not actually say how they detected that the reservist was sharing child pornography, there are software applications that are able to do random searches for exploited children's photos, as well as a variety of other types of illegal content.

If you are being investigated for a crime that is a federal offense and have used the internet in any way that could incriminate you -- falsely or accurately -- you should contact an attorney to know what your rights are in regards to the possible incriminating evidence. Early intervention can often result in the ability to avoid the charges altogether.

Source: Gizmodo, "Dropbox Refuses to Explain Its Mysterious Child Porn Detection Software," accessed Oct. 23, 2015

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