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Child protection website insecurity fixed

Abuse report page was unencrypted

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A member of the public was shocked to find that links to a web page used to report incidents of suspected child abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre were insecure.

Concerned parties visiting a confidential report abuse webpage on CEOP's webpage from either Facebook or Google were directed to an unencrypted page, before being redirected onto a page with a secure SSL link – if users actually decided to file a report.

The oversight meant that search queries or other actions performed on CEOP's landing page were open to eavesdropping because they were sent in the clear.

There is no evidence that any such eavesdropping actually happened, however. CEOP said that the security shortcoming with its site, which it downplayed, has now been resolved.

In a statement, CEOP's chief exec, Peter Davies, said: “The risk was a hypothetical one and there is no evidence to suggest anyone's details have been jeopardised.

"We thank the member of the public who brought this issue to our attention and have rectified the problem, so people can continue to report any concerns they have to us, with the reassurance that their report will remain secure."

The Information Commissioner's Office confirmed that its is looking into the incident.

An ICO spokesperson said: "We are making enquiries into the circumstances of this alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken."

CEOP is a specialised police agency, set up in 2006, that leads the UK's fight against child abuse. It also runs various education programmes aimed at making children aware of the dangers posed by paedophiles who attempt to meet children online, for example. CEOP lobbied for Facebook to put a panic button on its website.

Jim Gamble, the former head of CEOP and an outspoken advocate of the Facebook panic button, resigned last year over government plans to merge the agency with a new National Crime Agency, due to commence operations in 2013. ®

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