CEOP Goes Covert On Dark Web To Snare Paedophiles

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

CEOP is to focus on illicit activity on the dark web as it looks to unmask those who think they are anonymous

The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP) today initiated a fresh campaign to target paedophiles on the “hidden internet”, which will see more covert detectives sent into the dark web.

CEOP said most sites and forums on the dark web relate to unlawful activity and they are the source of “first generation” indecent images that are seen for the first time on such sites. This suggests many of those operating on the dark web are involved in the production of material.

In some cases, children are being abused by members of forums and the resulting imagery shared with the community on the hidden internet.

The dark web has seen “a significant and growing use by those with a sexual interest in children”, CEOP’s Threat Assessment report. The body will also be cracking down on peer to peer (P2P) networking or file sharing.

Unmasking the anonymous

CEOP told TechWeekEurope it was confident it will be able to snare those sharing indecent imagery, despite the anonymity the hidden internet provides. “There is more than one way of identifying people,” a spokesperson said.

“People are keeping up with what law enforcement are doing. You might think you’re being clever by doing that… but whatever you do online leaves a digital footprint.”

“We are looking at individuals who are producing ‘first generation’ content… these people are producing it in their own homes and with people they have gotten access to.”

CEOP gets over 1,300 reports a month, most of which come from industry groups, such as big service providers like BT and Virgin, the spokesperson said. “ISPs are getting much better at detecting criminal activity on their networks,” she added.

CEOP will use the skills of its various experts to track illicit activity on the dark web, including forensic professionals and covert internet investigators, who will play a big role in this strategical push.

The group’s  2011-2012 Annual Review showed 427 children had been safeguarded as a direct result of its activity and 192 suspects arrested.

“Protecting 427 children from sexual abuse last year is a major achievement – each and every one of them now has a chance to enjoy a proper childhood, free from harm,” said home secretary Theresa May. “CEOP’s role will be further enhanced next year when it becomes part of the new National Crime Agency, sharing intelligence to expose the links between child exploitation and other forms of serious and organised crime.”

Are you a security boff? Try our quiz!