Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Hundreds of sex offenders in US used popular Web site, investigation shows


Hundreds of convicted sex offenders have been discovered using the popular Web site MySpace following an investigation by a US technology magazine, it emerged on Wednesday.

Former computer hacker Kevin Poulsen, a senior editor for Wired, made the discovery after developing a program that cross-referenced people using the phenomenally successful site with registers of sex offenders.

Inputting the names of nearly 386,000 sex offenders from 46 states across the US, Poulsen found thousands of possible matches.

Poulsen, who achieved notoriety in the early 1990s for a string of audacious hacks that ultimately earned him jail time, sifted through 7,000 names before discovering 744 sex offenders with profiles on the site.

Wired's investigation led to the arrest of 39-year-old Andrew Lubrano, a New Yorker now facing his fourth arrest for a sex crime.

Poulsen said the investigation highlighted the flaws in security procedures at MySpace, which has an estimated 100 million users.

"MySpace have done a lot in terms of security to stop predation. But this clearly shows that they could be doing more," he said.

"Lubrano sent messages to one 14-year-old boy where he addressed him as `Sextoy.' It seems like they should be able to come up with a technological solution where they could spot behavior like that," he said.

Lubrano was arrested by undercover police officers and eventually charged with the misdemeanor offence of attempting to endanger the welfare of a child.

A statement from MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam said the Web site was working to develop software that would identify sex offenders.

"We are committed to keeping sex offenders off MySpace and are evaluating all functional and scalable solutions," the statement said.

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