'Unprecedented' surge in online child abuse images : Huge in Aug 5, 2013 9:03:41 GMT
Post by Focus on Aug 5, 2013 9:03:41 GMT
Child abuse images are being unwittingly hosted by ordinary websites, according to an internet watchdog.
In the last six weeks, there have been an unprecedented number of reports of the illegal images appearing on pages as mundane as furniture websites, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said.
The charity said it had received 227 reports in that time of websites being hijacked by hackers who post images of child abuse.
Abuse epidemic : In the last six weeks, there have been an unprecedented number of reports of the illegal images appearing on pages as mundane as furniture websites, says an internet watchdog
The IWF said it was a new phenomenon that it was unable to explain as most of the people who are taken to view these images do not want to see them.
The figures, given to BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast with Nicky Campbell by the IWF, demonstrate the difficulty of the battle to remove child abuse images from websites.
Folders containing the images are uploaded on to an ordinary website but can only be accessed by other - usually pornographic websites - the charity said.
It is only by clicking on the link which takes you through to the relevant part of the ordinary website that the images can be viewed. The chances of an everyday internet user stumbling upon the images are slim, it adds.
In one example, a furniture website was hacked and a folder containing hundreds of child sex abuse images was uploaded, it said.
The IWF said that the illegal images are often coupled with malware and viruses which may be a reason why hackers post them on other websites.
It is unlikely that those who host the original adult site containing the link would have any idea that a third party had set up the diversion to the ordinary website and uploaded the images.
IWF technical researcher Sarah Smith said: ‘We hadn’t seen significant numbers of hacked websites for around two years, and then suddenly in June we started seeing this happening more and more.
‘It shows how someone, not looking for child sexual abuse images, can stumble across it. The original adult content the internet user is viewing is far removed from anything related to young people or children.
‘We’ve received reports from people distressed about what they’ve seen.
Our reporters have been extremely diligent in explaining exactly what happened, enabling our analysts to re-trace their steps and take action against the child sexual abuse images.
‘Since identifying this trend we’ve been tracking it and feeding into police forces and our sister hotlines abroad.’
Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the IWF, said: ‘Hackers are planting folders of criminal content on ordinary business websites.
‘We came across a furniture website which was hacked and it had a folder containing hundreds of images of child sexual abuse and these are some of the worst of the worst.
‘And that’s just an example of one of the 227 reports we’ve received over the last six weeks of these hacked websites.’
Victims : The Internet Watch Foundation said that it had seen a 42 per cent increase on last year of reports to its online hotline since the murders of Tia Sharpe, top, and April Jones, below
The IWF was set up by the internet industry to report child sex abuse images, which are illegal, to the police and to provide a hotline so members of the public can report the images.
The IWF said that it had seen a 42 per cent increase on last year of reports to its online hotline since the Tia Sharpe and April Jones cases.
Their attackers Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell had both sought child sex abuse images online.
It receives up to 170 reports a day from people who have spotted something disturbing online.
John Carr, a government advisor on child internet safety, said that hackers often attach viruses to images in order to create a new distribution point to send out more images.
He said: ‘This reduces the risk that the bad guys will be caught or traced because they have hijacked the machines that other people are using. Their computer then becomes a distribution points for those images.’
The fact the folders of images were hidden on normal websites also meant that paedophiles would know where to find them, he said.
He added that the recent upsurge in activity suggested that a criminal gang might have newly adopted the approach.
The 'ball's in your court' Cameron - get off your arse and sort it out!! - Fx