‘White Hat Hacker’ Uses Cyber Skills to Dismantle Child Predator Network, Bring Sickos to Justice

‘White Hat Hacker’ Uses Cyber Skills to Dismantle Child Predator Network, Bring Sickos to Justice
Main: (Courtesy of Ryan Montgomery); Illustration: (Burdun Iliya, tommaso79, ImageFlow/Shutterstock)
Michael Wing

They are hooded cyber criminals in dark basements trying to crack your bank account PIN. They are insidious Russians stealing elections from offshore IP addresses. These are typically how we think of hackers, but Ryan Montgomery, also dubbed 0day, is different. He is what's called a white hat hacker, or ethical hacker.

The 29-year-old cyber prodigy from Pennsylvania went from causing mischief online to helping authorities dismantle child predator networks. His stepping out from the shadows into the light was spurred on by a text message he received from a distressed friend in 2020; but his journey into cyberspace began much earlier. Montgomery began hacking almost in the womb: in the days of Napster and AOL, at age 11.

The web landscape looked far different then. You couldn't just Google it and go from “zero to hero” mastering cyber skills like today. “It was chat rooms and just who you knew,” Montgomery told The Epoch Times. “Asking questions, and not just asking questions but asking the right questions.” It was having the "mindset of a hacker," he added, “where you want to take something apart and put it back together and make it do something it wasn't supposed to do.”

Ultimately, hackers look beyond the graphical user interface, or GUI, to figure out how to exploit a system or software. Where your average user sees only the tools displayed on AOL, for instance, hackers spot less obvious things like peer-to-peer connections, presenting IP addresses ripe to be exploited or attacked. Some have hailed Montgomery the world's number one hacker.

But his heart was good. He would use his tech-savvy skillset to protect businesses by creating his own cybersecurity firm with his partners. Getting a text from said friend in late 2020, a switch flipped in his brain. And with unbridled fervor, he set about clandestinely dogging a depraved network preying on children. The hacker would have justice.

From Texts of the Darkest Carnality, to Arrests

Montgomery stared at his phone in shock, and felt sick to the stomach. He was at a friend's house when he got the text and probably would have lost his lunch, were it not still morning. “PLEASE! This is an all-pedo site sharing videos of little girls, talking about how they raped and abused children,” it read. It continued, “Felt sick after reading that stuff on his website. These people all need to be found!” There was a link to the website “Rapey.co.”

There were screenshots of three children in bathing suits with wording of the darkest carnality. "Who wants to gangbang these little sluts?" the title went. “I got dibs on the one in the middle,” read the description, next to which there was a tag, “Pick One for Yourself.” The phrases “making her scream” and “gently grooming her” were somehow exceeded in their vileness by the declaration, “I need someone who wants to impregnate my little 16-year-old.”

In that instant, Montgomery was triggered to take immediate action the most effective way he knew how. Leaving his friend's house, he got on the website and found a way to exfiltrate data en mass, collecting usernames, incriminating threads, and descriptions of acts beyond the pale. Day in and day out, he worked, until he had a compelling stockpile of evidence. He did not lift photos from the site, as he knew that was illicit material.

Ryan Montgomery, also known as 0day (pronounced zero-day). (Courtesy of Ryan Montgomery)
Ryan Montgomery, also known as 0day (pronounced zero-day). (Courtesy of Ryan Montgomery)

With this ample ammunition in hand, he contacted NCMEC, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, via their child pornography cyber tipline and sent over the damning database. “I never heard anything from them,” Montgomery told the newspaper, though he found it "ironic" what recently came out in a press release. Shortly after his hacking, there were arrests.

“[F]rom around September to December 2020, Christopher William Kuehner, 38, was a prominent member of the website Rapey.su,” read a Department of Homeland Security press statement, dated January 2023. “Kuehner repeatedly induced and enticed minor girls to produce child sexual abuse material for both him and the other members of the website. … Kuehner faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison when sentenced on April 25.”

Three other individuals—Jacob Royce Mullins, 20; Kyle William Leishear, 43; and Matthew Martin, 25—also pleaded guilty to their roles in the child exploitation operation.

Going after Rapey.co whetted Montgomery's appetite for justice, but he wasn't done. He continued hunting down sickos online by teaming up with a friend to build an organization for exposing them and locking them up. Eventually, their work went viral.

After getting noticed on Instagram, they were contacted by like-minded parties, including seasoned investigator Project Veritas, whose undercover network of journalists penetrate wide and deep. Oddly, despite his blanket outreach to all major news networks—from NBC to ABC, from Newsmax to CNN to Fox—no other media touched the story. Journalists who seemed interested never bit. Only Project Veritas did.

“They uncovered about 500 people so far,” Montgomery said, adding it's “one hundred percent guaranteed there are people behind the user names.” The hacker has his ways of knowing, though certain things he's “not allowed to talk about.”

Not long after hacking Rapey.co, Montgomery learned the man who ran the website, Nathan Larson, had also been arrested. “He was arrested with a 12-year-old girl at a layover—that he kidnapped and raped,” Montgomery said. That did make the news, as Larson was a well-known politician who ran for Congress twice and advocated legalizing child pornography. He has since died in prison.
Montgomery was spurred on further by Larson's arrest. “If he had been stopped the moment that I reported it, [the 12-year-old girl's rape] never would have happened,” he had thought. “What about the other boatload of users on this website?”

"Predators, I’m Coming for You"

Learning of Larson and his 12-year-old victim pushed Montgomery to join forces with certain, er, vigilante groups that target these vile networks operating in the underbelly of society.

Similar to "Dateline: To Catch a Predator," these groups employ women decoys who pretend to be children to catch pedophiles. They play along as they are “groomed” before springing the trap. “I got into [assisting them] because I wanted to help put more of these guys behind bars,” Montgomery said. "I didn’t feel like I had any support from law enforcement prior to taking it into my own hands, and [I wanted to] help as many people as I possibly could."

On the Shawn Ryan Show podcast, the hacker demonstrated just how dangerous these sites are. And how quickly a predator can zero in. “Just opening up a chat room and saying that I'm 13 years old and saying ‘hi,’ there was about, what, 14 messages in the chat room? And one of them was a man in his 40s," he told The Epoch Times.
(Left) An illustration of an online predator; (Right) Ryan Montgomery and a young pal. (Left: tommaso79/Shutterstock; Right: Courtesy of Ryan Montgomery)
(Left) An illustration of an online predator; (Right) Ryan Montgomery and a young pal. (Left: tommaso79/Shutterstock; Right: Courtesy of Ryan Montgomery)

The "vigilante" groups' weakness was they couldn't connect usernames with real people, phone numbers, workplaces, etc. “That’s kind of where my skills came in,” Montgomery said. “Where somebody just made a username or a fake username with a picture, I would be sending [the vigilante group] information about that person, along with where they work, and their family members, and other information.”

For the past three years, Montgomery has been waging cyber warfare against monsters and has seen far worse than what this article has revealed. He wears the armor of God. “I believe God knew that I had the ability to do it," he said. "And even though I had a hard time stomaching it, I can push through.”

But the war isn't over. He continues performing his task, but cannot say what, for that would jeopardize the mission's success. “It’s not over,” he said, adding that he is helped through by a strong support network. “I have a strong faith in God as well, so I’m not going to stop any time soon. If you’re a predator or a pedophile, I’m coming for you and, hopefully, a lot more than just me is coming for you.”

Cryptically, he added, “I’m limited in what I’m allowed to say, but a lot is coming.”

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