NetClean Report 2019
The NetClean Report 2019, the fifth of its kind is now available. This year the report is based on two different enquiries – one with law enforcement and one with businesses. The results, summarised in the report, help us understand the nature of child sexual abuse crime, how it is developing and what we must do to further ensure that we fight it as well as we can.
The NetClean Report 2019 shows that we need to further our understanding of how child sexual abuse crime is developing, and widen our understanding of how crimes are perpetrated and facilitated through new technology.
The below is a summary of the results in the report. You can read the report here to see the results and analysis of the results in full. The results are also commented upon by industry experts who compare the results to their own understanding of the problem and provide the analysis with further context.
For this year’s report we surveyed 450 police officers from 41 different countries across the globe. Based on results from previous reports we decided to look further into live-streaming, which is an important technological trend that has expanded our means of communication, and as a result also widened the scope for sharing child sexual abuse online.
The survey revealed that live-streamed child sexual abuse in increasing, but also indicated that we need to better understand the crime and how it is being perpetrated. Contrary to popular belief, most live-streamed child sexual abuse is produced either voluntarily or though coercion and sexual extortion, often by children in the US and Europe. Distant live-streaming, with ordered web-cam shows and an adult facilitating the abuse, is less common.
Children live-stream themselves for many different reasons, but mainly because the technology is available and on trend. The survey mentions in total sixty-four different apps and platforms that are used for live-streamed child sexual abuse. Most common is Skype, followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Kik and Omegle.
The two biggest cohorts of victims of abuse in the case of live-streaming are children and teenagers who voluntarily communicate images or films of themselves in an undressed state, sometimes performing an act of sexual nature for a boyfriend or girlfriend. If these pictures or films are then shared they can end up in collections of child sexual abuse. The increasing trend of coercion and sextortion, which we discussed in [link] last year’s report make up the second biggest group of victims. In these cases children are often coerced or pressured into sending explicit material because of threats to their person or people around them.
Storage of child sexual abuse material
To tackle child sexual abuse it is also important to understand where it is stored and to protect these devices from illicit and potentially damaging material. The survey revealed that child sexual abuse material is primarily stored on laptops, mobile phones and USB-sticks. Cloud storage is also used to a large extent, with Dropbox and Google services mentioned as the most used services.
The survey revealed that increased use of technological developments such as encryption, cloud storage and the darknet make police investigations into child sexual abuse crime more difficult. Live-streaming apps don’t store data, encryption and darknet both make it difficult to trace and investigate offenders. Conversely the surveyed police officers also highlight that technological developments help improve and increase the speed with which investigations can be handled. The use of Artificial Intelligence was primarily heralded as a useful tool used currently, with promise of great future development.
NetClean products are primarily aimed at the business sector, and as a consequence our research often involves a view into how this sector responds to the problem and threat of child sexual abuse. In the fight against dissemination of child sexual abuse material this sector is key, because it provides IT environments and devices that many offenders come to think of as their own, and subsequently use to find, view and download illicit material.
This year’s business survey, which makes up the second part of the NetClean Report 2019, included one hundred businesses based in the US, all with more than 5,000 employees. Integral to the understanding of the results is that the businesses were not specifically connected to the IT or mobile industry which have more specific knowledge of the problem of online child sexual abuse. As a consequence this survey gave us insight into how industries work to prevent this problem, safeguard IT environments and address the problem more generally.
Nine in ten of the businesses surveyed answered that they have a policy in place that prohibits employees from handling illicit material in the IT environment. Eight in ten have an action plan to deploy if child sexual abuse material is found in the IT environment. However, in contrast some businesses were vague as to what sort of technological tools they use to stop child sexual abuse from being consumed by employees. Most pointed to filter solutions, which although effective against many forms of cybercrime are usually not designed to capture child sexual abuse material.
Only one in ten of the surveyed businesses reported that they had found child sexual abuse material in their IT environment. This contradicts our findings in last year’s report where we found that 1 in 500 employees had viewed child sexual abuse material on a company owned device. Delving deeper into this it is important to note that the results from last year were collected from businesses that have specific detection software installed in their IT environments. Thus a conclusion might be that the businesses surveyed for this year’s report do not have sufficient protection in place – and risk exposing their IT environment to harmful content.
We will continue to chart the corporate world’s understanding and engagement of this problem. The Sustainable Development Goals ask that businesses engage with the welfare of children – as a childhood free from sexual abuse, achieved if businesses and the world in general invest in pro-active work and the use of appropriate technology.
In this year’s report we also included a section about technology that is available to businesses and organisations to detect and stop the dissemination of child sexual abuse material. These articles, distilled from a blog series called Technical Model National Response, highlight the need for a comprehensive multi-faceted technological response by governments and organisations and give an overview of the technologies available today.
Child sexual abuse is everyone’s problem, and we must all work to reduce harm to children in a world that is progressively going online.