Former Acting HHS Cybersecurity Chief Guilty Of Child Porn

Timothy DeFoggi faces 20 years to life after jury takes two hours to convict him in federal court.



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A Nebraska federal jury convicted a former acting director of cybersecurity at the Department of Health and Human Services of child pornography charges, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Timothy DeFoggi, 56, could face 20 years to life when he receives his sentence on Nov. 7.

DeFoggi, who worked at HHS between 2008 until early 2014, was convicted of "engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography, and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography in connection with his membership in a child pornography website," the Justice Department said. The ex-HHS executive is the sixth person convicted in connection with this investigation into three child pornography sites, government officials said.

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DeFoggi, who registered as a member on the website in March 2012, maintained his membership and website activity until the FBI took the site down in December 2012, trial evidence showed. As part of that activity, DeFoggi "accessed child pornography, solicited child pornography from other members, and exchanged private messages with other members where he expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children. DeFoggi even suggested meeting one member in person to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children," DOJ said.

He was one of at least 20 people using the site, the U.S. Attorney's Office of Nebraska told the Omaha World-Herald. At least 28,000 files were available to users of PedoBook; registered users shared more than 100,000 messages, the publication reported.

(Source: Omaha Police Department)
(Source: Omaha Police Department)

The pornography sites were run on servers that operated in Nebraska. Aaron McGrath, who has already been convicted for his role, managed the servers. McGrath pled guilty after being charged in a seven-count indictment in January. Unlike McGrath, DeFoggi took his chances with a jury; after a four-day trial and two hours of deliberation, the Omaha panel convicted him.

DeFoggi, of Germantown, Md., reportedly used Tor in a vain attempt to cover his tracks, Wired reported. The router masks users' IP addresses, generally hiding the originator's location. In this case, however, investigators remotely installed malware onto the devices of those who visited the child pornography sites, enabling law enforcement officials to identify those users' IP and MAC addresses, plus other identifiers, the site said. As a result, officials raided multiple, coordinated sites in April 2013 during "Operation Torpedo."

When agents arrived at DeFoggi's home, he reportedly was in the middle of downloading more child pornography, and agents had to force him away from his laptop, Wired wrote.

DeFoggi, who took the stand in his own defense, told the court he accessed Tor to seek out things that would damage national defense, World-Herald wrote. He sought hidden servers that could harm the government, he said.

The case was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat child exploitation and pornography.

It is unclear where DeFoggi accessed the website, or whether he used any government-owned computers, tablets, or smartphones to conduct his criminal behavior. But in his roles as supervisory IT specialist at the Indian Health Service and as a lead IT specialist at the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Administration, he most likely knew whether the department had implemented the controls necessary to block abhorrent, illegal, or illicit behavior.

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Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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