IP address errors lead to wrongful arrests


In a letter accompanying his annual report to the Prime Minister for 2017, the British Interception of Communications Commissioner, Stanley Burnton, has expressed concern about the increasingly unacceptable number of errors police are making in resolving Internet Protocol addresses. Because of the way communications service providers allocate - and reallocate - IP addresses, tracing one to a specific location requires manual entry of the address (up to 12 digits) along with details such as date and time. Inconsistencies in how dates and times are stored and entered has led to raids on innocent people and years of investigation that can wreck the lives of the wrongfully accused.

These errors are relatively more common in child sexual exploitation cases, where police err on the side of speed to protect children at risk. Burnton argues that it's important to avoid assuming that what he dubs "technical intelligence" is always correct, and recommends making it easier to use electronic transfers of the relevant information and using various methods to ensure the correctness of their information before proceeding.


Writer: Lisa Vaas
Publication: Naked Security

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