This isn’t the first time, I’ve written about Operation Ore, where a lot of British citizens were wrongfully accused of viewing child pornography.
Operation Ore was the result of an investigation conducted in the United States (Operation Avalanche), where a lot of credit card details being used to view child pornography were provided to the British authorities. It eventually led to a lot of people, including Pete Townsend of the Who, being charged with viewing child pornography.
It was later revealed that a large number of the credit card numbers obtained in the Avalanche search warrant had been stolen in one of the data breaches we read about, too frequently. In my original post on this story, I wrote about the data breach that caused this:
54,348 of the credit card numbers discovered in the U.S. search warrant were identified as having been stolen from Levenger Incorporated, a luxury goods company. Of course, Levenger declined to comment on how the information was stolen.
This case showed how an innocent person can be charged with a crime after becoming an identity theft victim.
The BBC just did a personal account of one person, who was victimized by being wrongfully accused, where they wrote:
With ID fraud on the rise, the assumption is you’ll lose money which can be claimed back. But Simon Bunce lost his job, and his father cut off contact, when he was arrested after an ID fraudster used his credit card details on a child porn website.
And Mr. Bunce didn’t frequent “fly by night e-commerce sites, either.” In his own words his credit card details were stolen from a “trusted” site.
The bottom line is that Mr. Bunce lost his job, was shunned by his own family and branded as a paedophile.
Furthermore, months later when he cleared his name, it took him a long time to get another job earning only a fraction of his previous salary. Even though, he has clearly been proven innocent, Mr. Bunce is still suffering the financial repercussions of identity theft.
While I’m certain that cases like this have made the authorities a little more careful of who they are prosecuting, if a criminal assumes a legitimate identity (complete with documents to support it) this could be happen to any of us.
This case and the personal story of Mr. Bunce clearly shows the dangers everyone is facing from continuing to store too much information in too many not very secure places.
BBC article (highly recommended reading), here.
Attrition.org and PogoWasRight try to document the record amount of everyone’s information that is stolen. Please note, there is so much of it being compromised they freely admit they cannot keep track of it all. Of course, the criminals stealing it probably don’t reveal all the places they are getting it, either.
Suad Leija’s Paper Weapons site shows how easily (extremely convincing) documents can be obtained by just about anyone to use the stolen information. “They are as good as anything in your pocket,” according to Suad.
I also try to keep up with some of this on this blog. Here is my original post on Operation Ore, which was called Operation Avalanche in the United States: