Child sexual abuse material and the IT industry response

Child sexual abuse material and the IT industry response
1 June, 2022 NetClean
NEWS 2022/06/01

Child sexual abuse material and the IT industry response

A lack of awareness of what the problem of child sexual abuse material really is and hesitation in terms of how to react if it affects your business. These and many other issues were raised when Police Superintendent Björn Sellström, Cyber Security expert Brian Honan and NetClean CEO Anna Borgström gathered to discuss the finding of NetClean Insights, a report detailing how the IT industry responds to the threat posed by child sexual abuse material.

It’s everyone’s problem

NetClean Insights was created using data gathered from over 1000 senior leaders in IT. It paints a picture of an industry still unsure as to how to address the issue of CSAM. At the heart of this, a fundamental issue of acceptance exists, as Honan points out –

“The report was very interesting. It highlighted what many people in the industry see going on but previously were unable to put figures on. For example, the report reveals that 84% of those asked had heard about incidences of child sexual abuse material in other companies but not in their own. For me, this is a strange statistic because it suggests that many respondents believe the problem is elsewhere. This leads me to think that we need to be more self-critical and better at self-monitoring. It’s not somebody else’s problem – it’s everyone’s problem.”

“I agree”, says Sellström. “I was both surprised and pleased by the level of awareness of the problem. However, from my position in law enforcement, it’s clear that not enough is being done to stop it from occurring and we have a moral and protective responsibility to do something about this.”

NetClean CEO Anna Borgström continues – “The report shows that 64% of those asked had experience of finding child sexual abuse material in a corporate environment within the last 5 years and that of these, 57% were repeat cases. This tells us that awareness is there but there’s a lack of understanding. We can’t tolerate this. The tech is there – if you don’t use it or understand it, you risk the integrity of your brand and children suffer.”

Responsibility and proper actions

In terms of the response of the IT industry, Honan offers this insight –

“Many IT depts are focused on business threats such as availability, integrity and confidentiality. These can be measured in real terms for impact. Child sexual abuse material is not elevated to the same level, so when it’s discovered, IT depts don’t know how to deal with it or what their responsibilities are.”

“Many IT depts are focused on business threats such as availability, integrity and confidentiality. These can be measured in real terms for impact. Child sexual abuse material is not elevated to the same level, so when it’s discovered, IT depts don’t know how to deal with it or what their responsibilities are.”

 

Sellström picks up on this theme – “The problem is often swept under carpet, the individual under investigation fired and then it’s ‘end of story’. Unfortunately, this doesn’t remove the problem – it just makes it a societal problem because these individuals have a higher risk of offending in real life. Awareness is a good start, but we need to take it to the next level and get businesses to understand their moral responsibility.”

Honan continues – “Simply deleting material from the IT environment and sacking the employee is not the right solution. The data is valuable and deleting it is deleting evidence of a crime. It should be shared with law enforcement agencies as it can lead to convictions and help rescue children from abuse.”

A real-world crime

Every online image of child sexual abuse material is a glimpse into a personal tragedy in the real world, a point Sellström feels is often forgotten –

“We need to ask ourselves what the images are depicting? What is it really? There’s a lack of understanding of the link between an image and the actual physical abuse that occurred. We’ve lost sight of the fact the Internet is just a platform for communicating – it’s not where the actual crime took place.”

In terms of what the business community and governments can do to elevate their response, Honan is clear –

“We can’t continue to make this someone else’s problem. Governments need to be more proactive and promote better education and engagement with the business community. We also need to encourage businesses to engage with law enforcement agencies and educate them on how they should respond when the problem occurs.”

Sellström agrees – “From a law enforcement perspective, our message is clear – don’t be afraid to contact the police. We will help you, not harm your business.”

Time to be proactive

NetClean Insights tells us that there is still much work to be done in bridging the gap between awareness and action. There is a lack of understanding around what CSAM actually involves and as Borgström concludes, this represents a risk to any company or organization.

“Don’t underestimate the threat child sexual abuse material poses to your IT environment, business, brand integrity and reputation. It’s illegal – and if you’re in possession of this kind of material, you’re committing a crime. We believe it’s time businesses took responsibility. The problem exists and it’s not going to go away. Just look in the mirror and ask yourself this – what can I do?”

Watch the full interview here:

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