Feeds

Internet Watch Foundation: Abuse images takedown speeds up

But scale of problem remains the same

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

The number of URLs hosting child abuse content has risen significantly over the last year – but the scale of the problem has not changed, and take-down time has improved dramatically.

Those were the highlights of yesterday's Internet Watch Foundation 2010 Annual Report (PDF/3.9MB) presented to an assembly of the great and the good at a reception in the House of Commons yesterday evening.

The report revealed that the IWF hotline processed some 48,702 reports during 2010, which was an increase of 27.9 per cent over 2009. This led to the identification of some 16,739 potentially criminal URLs – an increase of 89.3 per cent over the last year – over which the foundation took action.

These pages were tracked back to 41 different countries, with six top level domains accounting for 86.4 per cent of all pages identified (.com, .ru, .jp, .net, .es, .org).

The IWF attributes these two increases to two unrelated trends: on the one hand, reports are going up, because the public are becoming more aware of the role of the IWF and procedures for reporting content. The increase in URLs appears to be linked to a shift in the hosting pattern, as opposed to any general increase in content available.

A spokeswoman for the IWF told us: "The number of domains being used to host child abuse material has remained static for several years. About half of all commercial abusive content comes from just 10 'brands' of commercial child sexual abuse.

"What seems to be changing is that the number of URLs involved has increased, but this is because the image-to-URL ratio has been falling. Those posting child abuse content are putting up fewer pictures per URL.

"Our sense is therefore that the overall amount of content on the net is not increasing: it is merely being hosted differently."

The report also contains a bar chart tracking the improvement of takedown times. According to the graph, last year in April, over 180 abuse images took over a month to be taken down. By December, that figure had dropped to less than 60. The report said the majority of content is now removed within days.

What may also be changing is the nature of the individual putting content up. We also spoke with Eve Salomon, IWF Chair. She told us that one significant change in pattern over the last year or so was the way in which material was being put up on a non-commercial basis – often for free.

This confirms evidence collated last year by the The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Unit (CEOP) and the European Financial Coalition, suggesting that the economics of child abuse make it less of a focus for organised crime than popular belief would have it. Rather, sharing of images was often a form of "sick social networking", with abusers either passing on images as a form of one-upmanship, or possibly in the hope of inspiring others to reciprocate by providing images of their own activity.

She suggested that more research needs to be done in this area.

We also asked Salomon about the claim, by Dutch ISPs, in a letter sent to the Dutch Minister of Justice in November 2010, but only released earlier this month, that URL-blocking was ineffective and counter-productive. The Dutch ISPs specifically cite the UK experience, where blocking has led to a dramatic initial reduction from 2,000 URLs on the blocklist at any one time, to the current figure of 500.

Salomon rejected this view, claiming that the IWF provided a safety net: that while it was true the number of active URLs had fallen, there was no guarantee that this state of affairs would continue if pressure provided by the IWF was removed. In addition, she pointed out, the amount of child abuse material hosted in the UK was now almost zero.

Other routes for accessing child abuse material were monitored and, where possible, disrupted by bodies such as the CEOP.

The IWF report celebrates some 15 years of achievement in the area of child protection. Behind the figures lie a number of human success stories that often receive less publicity. In particular, yesterday, the IWF were proud to relate how reports of content featuring two British girls led to the rescue of two child victims in the UK.

As a spokeswoman told us: "This side of our work is often overlooked". ®

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.