An elevated risk for businesses as new data shows the worst year on record for child sexual abuse online
By Anna Borgström, NetClean CEO
I have said this before, but it is worth repeating; the COVID-19 pandemic is like a perfect storm for perpetrators. Lockdowns have had a major impact on both children and adults as they have spent more time online, and the result is a dramatic increase in online child sexual abuse crime. Now we know that by fact.
Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a non-profit organization in the UK that specializes in tracking down and removing child sexual abuse material from the internet just released new figures that demonstrate that last year was the worst year on record for child sexual abuse online, as lockdowns generated younger and younger children being targeted “on an industrial scale” by internet groomers.
The latest IWF figures showed that out of the 361 000 reports investigated in 2021, 252 000 were confirmed to be URLs containing images or videos of child sexual abuse. These figures are a 21% increase compared to 2020 data.
As a result of the staggering numbers, the UK Government launched a new campaign and website; Stop Abuse Together to help parents spot the signs of online sexual abuse and grooming and keep children safe. But the responsibility to safeguard children cannot only be put on the parents or the children themselves.
It is not only parents that have a responsibility, but businesses also need to take action
To effectively fight the spread of child sexual abuse material, different technologies must be applied by all who use the internet and have an interest in making it a safe space for future generations. If all businesses and organizations in the world – billions of computers and devices – took appropriate action, the opportunity to find and disrupt the spread of online child sexual material would increase infinitely.
In the corporate environment, the chief information security officer (CISO) is the executive responsible for an organization’s information and data security. The CISOs I talk to are often brand and reputation-to-risk lead. They help their boards of directors guide security spending in a way that is consistent with corporate goals and risk appetite. When deciding how much to spend to protect digital assets, business leaders need to understand the value of those assets and the likelihood of sustaining a data breach.
The new figures from IWF reveal that a record amount of CSAM was taken down on the open internet, with a three-fold increase of abuse imagery of 7-10-year-olds in the removed material. Together with data from the recent NetClean Insights report, showing that 64% of all surveyed organizations had experienced a case of child sexual abuse material and that 57% of the respondents had had repeat incidents in the same organization, the risk for any medium to large business is crystal clear.
If the obvious risk is not enough motivation to invest in products that are specifically designed to target CSAM, I would say that there is a moral responsibility for businesses in their role as major stakeholders in the world of digital connectivity. Let us not waste any more time. Let 2022 be the year of action.
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