IWF report shows tech behind dark world of online child abuse


In an age of ever-advancing gadgets, it can be easy to forget that tech is often used for more sinister ends. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which works to combat online child sexual abuse imagery, has released its annual report providing insight to how abusers are getting around strict web controls.

As part of the report IWF – which counts the likes of Facebook, Google and BT in its membership – has released a number of stats and insight into the world of online child abuse.

The report highlights newly released domains as where many indecent online images can be found, with websites reportedly often disguised. IWF findings indicate that 80% of domains holding graphic images are still “Generic Top Level Domains” such as .com, or .net. However, it’s said that the number of paedophiles utilising new domains rose by 258% from 2015, presumably as they’re lesser known. New domain suffixes are released often to help meet demand for web content.

Furthermore, criminals supplying paedophiles with these online images appear to be getting around security measures by masking their activity. The report says suppliers of abusive images will often leave clues on online forums as to where an image is hidden for a paedophile to view it.

Despite the UK, France and Germany having particularly stringent online security measures, the Internet Watch Foundation report reveals that Europe overtook the US as the primary host for abusive images. The Netherlands ranked the worst overall with an increase of 18% in detected abusive content from 2015-2016, with the IWF finding 20,972 examples in total.

It should be noted the UK made up just 0.1% of the findings, although response time varied between an hour to over 120 minutes when officials were alerted to them.

The IWF says the biggest culprits for displaying graphic content are image-hosting sites. Comparatively, social networks ranked very low in the official IWF statistics.

The dark web, which until recently was seeing a steep increase in the number of hidden domains hosting abusive images, actually saw a decrease in detected numbers. The researchers found 41 illegal domains, roughly half uncovered in 2015’s research. You can find the full IWF report here.

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