LIFE IN CYBERSPACE / Se7en's Sins Are Deadly For Child-Porn Dealers

By Matthew Mcallester

IF ONE DAY you turn on your computer and find nothing there but an image of a big python holding a red rock engraved with the name ``se7en'' in its gaping mouth, then you'll know you've been hacked. And you'll know that an online vigilante who lives in Southern California knows you are a dealer in child pornography.

se7en's claim is to put his image up on their web page, not to erase their computer and make it boot up only to that image. Either way, there is not a single documented case of this occuring for anyone.

Sorry. You were a dealer. Now you're just a guy with a big hunk of Swiss for a hard drive.

Se7en, whose real name is Christian Valor, is a 28-year-old hacker with a mission: to track down traders in child pornography and mess with their computers. So far he's left his python calling card, or other similar memento mori, on the hard drives of about 30 people whose idea of fun is to deal in digitized photographs of children engaged in sexual acts.

se7en's real name is not Christian Valor. Once again, the claim of 30 victims, yet not a single recorded case of this, not a single mirror of one of these hacks.

But isn't breaking into someone else's computer and erasing its files, like, totally breaking the law?

``It's competely illegal,'' said Valor, who works as a computer security consultant to companies and government ...

So he is not with his fictitious 'Berkeley Research Group' any longer.

... agencies. ``I've been told by enough cops they're never going to arrest me for doing this. I've been told by judges they'd find a way to throw it out every time. You find me a jury anywhere in the world that is going to convict me for invading a child pornographer's computer and destroying it. Or, in the unlikely event they find me guilty, find one that'll send me to jail. If worse comes to worst, guess what - you just made a national martyr. The whole country is going to go nuts.''

Valor, who gets to socialize with a whole host of law enforcement officials in his line of work, isn't sweating it.

One New York law enforcement officer who works in the area of computer crime and spoke on condition of anonymity said that if he was aware of a hacker doing damage to the computer system of a child pornographer, he would look the other way.

Illegal though it may be, Valor wasn't thinking about the law when he first came across child pornography on the Net in May of last year.

``Some moron who thought he was going to be cute sent me a picture of child pornography in e-mail,'' said Valor, who had always thought the rumors of enormous stashes of online kiddie porn to be digital myth. ``Now I thought, uh-oh.''

Valor's previous belief that the talk of child pornography on the Internet was pure alarmism was based on a research project that lasted several weeks. ``I spent an enormous amount of time trying to find it,'' Valor said. ``The fact is, it's not on the Web. People don't throw that stuff on the Web. So now I was wondering if this [e-mailed image] was a fluke or was this one picture of hundreds of thousands.''

So in three weeks he couldn't find any child porn. Yet in the next few months he claims to have hacked up to 99 child porn sites?

Valor headed for a longtime hackers' testing ground, the Internet Relay Chat channel, teensex. Using a ``who'' command that enables users to examine other's online profiles, Valor started to deduce which participants in the channel were hacker kids and which were potentially child pornographers. From these early clues he followed a trail of e-mails and profiles that led to the private servers of child pornographers.

On these servers the operators used a kind of software that required new users to upload new images of child pornography in order to gain access to the online library's wealth. Valor gained acceptance by stealing legal images of kids over the age of 16 from adult Web sites and offering them up as images of children much younger.

Rather to his surprise, that same night the regular operators of the channel all had other things to do, and so he was left briefly in charge. ``They thought I was old-school,'' Valor said.

``So I started finding out about people. I asked people why they do this stuff. And I threw a lot of people off. It was one night's quick introduction to the world of child pornography.''

Once Valor knew the hidden pathways of this new world, he set to work.

He uses a variety of tools to damage the computers of child pornographers - viruses, Trojan horses and hostile Java applets, for example. Classic hacker weapons.

Viruses, trojans, and java are the least of a hacker's tools when breaking into a remote server. To do what se7en claimed in previous article, these tools would be near useless.

Sometimes he'll upload adult pornography into their computers, wiping out the child images.

Giving porn to a pornographer is a bad thing in their eyes? Just because the age of the people in the images is different doesn't really teach them a lesson. Additionally, uploading more than a few images would take hours or days.

Another program will hunt down every jpeg image on a hard drive and destroy it. Nearly all child pornography images are kept in the jpeg format.

``It's so much fun,'' Valor said.

It's also his duty, he feels. And to that end, last year he posted a manifesto on the Net explaining his intentions and encouraging other hackers to follow his lead.

Manifesto? Try one letter posted to the dc-stuff mailing list which has about 750 subscribers (less then).

``No one knew who I was then,'' Valor said. ``All they knew is once a week or every other week one of their buddies goes down, screaming the name `se7en,' as they go down in flames.''

This is completely fabricated. se7en often claims to have been around for sixteen years in the scene. Yet here he says "no one knew who I was".

They know who he is now.

main page ATTRITION feedback