Predators are sharing child sexual abuse images...in plain sight

Here is the disturbing yet simple trick that pedophiles use to spur their activities...

Although we know that sexual abuse to children by pedophiles exists, it’s hard to imagine it happening to our children one day. Partly, this is because it’s so well hidden within the “community” of pedophiles. Recently though, a worrying trend has come to light. Pedophiles use website redirect tricks to hide and spread child sexual abuse images on websites.

How Pedophiles Spread Child Sexual Abuse Images on Websites

These sites could be disguised as ordinary, legal sites. However, through special actions, pedophiles can direct themselves to child sexual abuse images on websites.

James Temperton from Wired explains: “When a pedophile visits a bulletin board or online forum to find images and videos of sexual abuse, they click on a link. When they do, they get redirected from one site to another and obtain session cookies which is proof of the path they used. With the right session cookie, the last redirect which normally shows legal content now displays child sexual abuse content, even though the exact URL is the same.”

This method makes child sexual abuse images on websites remain online longer. Sadly, it also makes it much harder for law enforcement to find and remove such content.

child sexual abuse images on websites

Online child predator communities are getting increasingly smarter in hiding child sexual abuse images from the authorities.

The IWF

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was the to first detect the disguised website technique. Funded by the industry and not supported by the government or police, the IWF is a charity organization. It relies heavily on industry members to help it tackle the problem.

Many of IWF’s partners include big corporations like Google and Facebook. Fred Lagford, Deputy CEO of the IWF observes, “Child sexual abuse is globally accepted as abhorrent, and standards about what is considered illegal are very similar globally. So organizations like Facebook are quite comfortable taking action with us so long it is known to be illegal.”

With 136 members already signed-up, the IWF is calling on all partners to get more involved – and for more companies to join.

Child Sexual Imagery on the Rise

Why should the IWF need more members? Alarmingly, the number of disguised websites and website “brands” hosting child sexual abuse images and videos are rising.

For instance, the IWF saw a 37 per cent increase in the total number of child sexual abuse URLs  in 2016. In 2017 the use of such disguised URLs saw an 86 per cent year-on-year increase. In total, the IWF found 2,909 disguised websites last year.

Even more concerning is the fact that the severity of this content is also increasing. 33% of the URLs that the IWF found and removed were Category A – the most extreme type of abuse – an increase of five per cent year-on-year.

This secretive method of hiding child sexual abuse images on websites is becoming more common due to professionalization by the criminal networks feeding the demand.

The website providers want the child sexual abuse images on websites to remain there longer. According to Langford, “it can build consumer confidence in their brand, which is worrying because it brings more traffic to sites that aren’t getting removed as quickly.”

How to Protect your Child from Sexual Predators Online

Here are some ways to protect your children online and from sexual abuse. Tell your children…

  • …why they should never give personal information. Even little bits are a BIG no-no. Online predators can use multiple accounts to gain a more detailed picture of your child.
  • …to only post pictures on the internet after you’ve reviewed them. Any pictures with personal information, could start a conversation between the predator and your child.
  • …to inform you immediately if they talk to a person who tells you them to keep their conversations a secret from their parents.
  • …NEVER meet anyone they have interacted with online in person. Tell them to inform you immediately if a stranger invites them. What if the stranger attempts to harm your child, or kidnap them? You need to explain these risks to them.

Also, another good tip is to always supervise your children when they are using a computer. Using parental control software, filters and blocks is a good start. Discuss with your children and make them understand which websites contain appropriate material. Online predators know when children are not supervised by their parents when they are using the computer.

You can also use filters, blocks and use parental software to track which sites your children are using.  Here are some that theAsianparent recommends!

What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Being Targeted by a Sexual Predator Online

If you suspect someone has sexually harassed your child, remain calm. Reassure him or her that you believe them, and that what happened isn’t their fault. After that, bring them to a healthcare professional or hospital immediately for a health check. You may also want to report this incident to the nearest police station.

Parents, always remember to be wary if your child has been sexually abused. Here is more information on the effects of, tips and how to identify sexual abuse. 

References: Wired UK, cyberwise.org

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore