Interpol Successfully Unblurs Image of Sexual Predator
October 9, 2007 9:06 PM
Interpol released these images to enlist public assistance in tracking down this unidentified man.
Authorities post his face publicly and receive a torrent of replies
A man suspected of sexually abusing children was publicly unmasked last Monday when Interpol successfully unscrambled images of his face. Crops of the scrambled and unscrambled images were
posted to Interpol’s website
, along with a public plea for help, as all police efforts at identifying him thus far have failed.
Working from the original images found on the internet, specialists from the
or Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office were able to successfully reverse what appears to be Photoshop’s twirl distortion tool, using unspecified methods. “Techniques are always developing. What is impossible today is possible tomorrow,” said Anders Persson, the Swedish police officer in charge of overseeing Interpol’s child abuse image database.
The images, which were taken in Cambodia and Vietnam sometime during 2002 and 2003, have been making the rounds around the internet underground in a series of about 200 images depicting the abuse of 12 young boys, whose ages range from six to the early teens.
Persson was initially hesitant to release the photos publicly, as it would signal to criminals that police forces were capable of unblurring images. Outweighing that consideration, however, was his interest in protecting other children from predators. “It was a long discussion,” said Persson, “… we have exhausted all possibilities within [the] police to find this man … this was the last step.”
For decades the scrambling of images – usually with a mosaic or blur filter – has been common practice in protecting private information and safeguarding the identities of publicly pictured individuals. In an article titled “
Why Blurring Sensitive Information is a Bad Idea
,” Dheera Venkatraman outlines the method for a possible attack against scrambled images using a technique similar to
rainbow table attacks
that are used against
one-way scrambled hashes
frequently used for storing passwords. His conclusion: “don’t blur your images!”
Interpol received over
200 messages in the first 12 hours
after releasing images of the man’s face. “We have a lot of responses and they are coming from all over the world,” said Persson, with some messages including detailed information that includes names and addresses.
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