Those who click on such links - sent in acts of what is known as "Rick Rolling," pranks or attempts to drive traffic - may unknowingly provide the FBI enough evidence to raid their homes and jail them. According to the FBI, clicking those links is the same as having intent to download child porn, ARS Technica reported.
By using logged IP addresses to obtain warrants, authorities can arrest and charge people with the federal crime of intent to download child porn, ARS Technica reported, adding that the FBI has deposited links to phony files on message boards known for having child-predator traffic.
Since log files within these link traps do not take into account the possibility that the links could have been forwarded, ARS Technica noted, any IP address logged is assumed to have originated from one of the FBI's links and is therefore considered guilty.
Temple University doctoral student Roderick Vosburgh allegedly clicked on a planted hyperlink pointing to a file located on an FBI server. The file contained no porn, but it logged Vosburgh's IP address when he tried to access it. The FBI later arrested him and searched his home.
According to court documents, the FBI said there was no evidence that Vosburgh had ever accessed the forum where the links were originally planted, but authorities caught Vosburgh trying to destroy a hard drive and a flash drive.
Vosburgh's attorney said the affidavit used to charge Vosburgh contained no probable cause indicating that criminal activity had occurred. He also said there was no proof that Vosburgh was at home when the file allegedly was accessed, or that there was a computer with an Internet connection in Vosburgh's apartment.
Vosburgh was convicted of clicking on an illegal link and possession of child porn because of two thumbnail images of reportedly underage girls.
The conviction came despite computer experts' testimony that the cache was automatically created and that Vosburgh could not have known that the thumbnails had been placed on his computer.
Vosburgh is scheduled for sentencing on April 22.