Work computers used for child sexual abuse crime – Most common outside office hours

Time of day

Most common outside working hours

Most alerts are triggered away from the work place and outside of working hours, during evenings, holidays, leave and work trips, and it is not uncommon for the individual to turn off the internet and network connection in order to avoid detection.

Some alerts occur during down-time in the work place, e.g. during lunch hours or early in the morning. In some cases the same individual has caused the software to send several alerts. In these cases the alerts have occurred at different times of day and night, including during work hours. In these instances, where several alerts have been triggered, large amounts of images and films have often been found.

Method of accessing images

Most frequently by using a USB-stick

Although almost all of the interviewed businesses and organisations stated that they had received alerts caused by individuals searching the internet for illicit material, the overwhelming majority of alerts were triggered by USB-sticks, which were in the main privately owned. Instances where child sexual abuse material was saved together with sensitive business information on USB-sticks and / or external hard-drives was also reported.

Anna Borgström, CEO NetClean:

“It doesn’t matter where the images are stored – be it USB memory sticks, external hard-drives, or different cloud based services – they must be handled somewhere. This is why the work computer is such an important focal point. If businesses protect their computers, they will be able to detect if child sexual abuse material is consumed.”

Number of images that cause alerts

A few images in most cases

In most cases the alerts referred to just a few images that had been recognised by the software; often no more than 2-5 images. However, in many of the businesses and organisations interviewed, they had also found alerts that involved 15-20 images. In a few cases the alert involved several thousand images, to up to twenty thousand images from a single individual.

Björn Sellström, Team leader, INTERPOL,
Crimes Against Children Unit, Vulnerable Communities Team:

“It is important to give the police a chance to investigate, even in cases where only a few images have been found. A house search can reveal that the few images are just the tip of the iceberg, widening the case to one that involves a collection and distribution of hundreds of thousands of child sexual abuse images.

In addition, we have to consider the strong arguments that consumption of child sexual abuse material is linked to physical abuse of children. In a Swedish case, a discovery of three images led investigators to two children who had been subjected to brutal sexual abuse. Every found image is worth investigating, as it has the potential to save a child and give them the chance to grow up and meet their full potential.”

Number of images on the computer

More material is frequently found on the computer

Businesses and organisations have different procedures when they find that an employee has consumed online child sexual abuse material. Some conduct a thorough forensic investigation of the individual’s computer, others report the alert to the police without further investigating the computer. The businesses and organisations that have undertaken an investigation have in most cases found further material or catalogue structures that clearly contain online child sexual abuse material.

Other security risks

Large amounts of pornography

In some cases the interviewed businesses and organisations also investigated whether there was other illicit material on the individual’s computer that could pose as a security threat or breach of company policy. Roughly half of those businesses stated that they frequently also find large amounts of “adult pornography”, whereas the rest stated that they do not find any such material. A few of the businesses and organisations also found torrent clients on the individual’s computer, which can be seen as a security risk to the company.

According to the interviewed businesses and organisations there were instances of individuals who have a clear predilection for child sexual abuse. This was evident from the catalogue structure, or from the fact that all the material found on the computer contained child sexual abuse.

Further material in the home

House searches frequently unearth more material in the home

Businesses and organisations do not always have information about what happens after the police have taken over the investigation. The data that we have about this issue is therefore in comparison less comprehensive. The interviews showed however that in cases where there is knowledge about a house search and the outcome, more material has in the majority of cases been found at the home of the offender.

Reactions from the individual

Reactions differ when individuals are confronted

According to the businesses and organisations interviewed, reactions vary when individuals who have viewed child sexual abuse material on their work computers are confronted. Most individuals confess and it is not uncommon to hear confessions that they have a problem and need help. Many state that it is an illness and that they can’t stop.

Some individuals do not react at all, and seem to be unfazed by the issue, denying all knowledge of the crime. Other individuals act surprised or uncomprehending. Some blame friends or even their children – stating that they have used their computers to view the material. Some get into a panic, some become aggressive and some react with shame and regret. Several employers say that the individuals who express regret mainly do so thinking about their own situation and what is at stake. Few show any insight into the plight of the children in the images or show any remorse on their behalf.

Patrick Cordner, Head of Swedish Cybercrime Center (SC3),
National Operative Department, Sweden:

“It is important that businesses and organisations that use detection tools report alerts to the police. The found material can be an indication that the individual who has triggered the alert has further involvement with this crime.

It is also important that the police act on reported alerts quickly and assist businesses and organisations with gathering and securing evidence.”

About NetClean ProActive

NetClean ProActive software detects known child sexual abuse material in organisations’ IT environments. It works similar to an antivirus programme, however instead of detecting viruses, NetClean ProActive detects images and films that the police have classified as child sexual abuse material.

NetClean ProActive alerts

NetClean ProActive detects if an individual views child sexual abuse material, with the result that the software sends an alert, either as an email or SMS, to the individual whom the organisation has designated to handle these issues.

Comment on insight 7 and 8:

“Lack of insight and empathy
part of the problem”

Michael Sheath
Manager & Principal Practitioner
at Lucy Faithfull Foundation

Read comment here

Lack of insight and empathy part of the problem

The data in NetClean’s survey echoes my experience of working with men who consume child sexual abuse material. They are “normal” men with an education, family, work and socially functional lives. They are not men who make other people uncomfortable or raise suspicion.

One of the problems that we see in tackling child sexual abuse crime is the demonisation of child sexual offenders. The image of the stereotypical offender focuses people’s attention in the wrong direction; away from the fact that it can be the respectable man with the nice family, the big house and the expensive car who also consumes child sexual abuse material.

Compulsive behaviour

The risks associated with viewing this sort of material in the workplace or on a work computer is indicative of the compulsiveness in these individuals’ behaviour. This is especially evident in cases where employees have viewed child sexual abuse material several times. Taking this risk signals the scale of the compulsion.

There are several additional factors that combined with compulsive behaviour can tip these individuals into viewing child sexual abuse material. One factor is stress, which can trigger the impulse. There is also a proven strong connection between sexual arousal and poor decision making, impulsivity, and a reduction in empathy.

Anonymity is a key driver

I am not surprised that these individuals primarily consume the material away from the workplace and outside of working hours. I am convinced that it has to do with a sense of anonymity. Anonymity is one of the biggest drivers in the consumption of child sexual abuse material. The “logic” behind it is that if one is not caught out, one has not performed the action is question.

Lack of insight and empathy

In my experience most men who view child sexual abuse material don’t understand that they are a part of the problem. They don’t realise that their consumption increases the demand and leads to the sexual abuse of children. Their reasoning is that the abuse has already occurred, it was not their fault that it happened, and they do not contribute to any further harm if they merely view the material.

This lack of insight is connected to the reactions of these individuals when it is discovered that they have viewed child sexual abuse material on their work computer. The strongest reaction is a sense of shame, and not guilt. Most worry solely about what other people will think, and do not consider the harm that their actions have brought to children.

Ultimately, this crime has a close connection to empathy or lack of empathy. Many men genuinely want help to stop viewing child sexual abuse material. The key to this is to get them to understand how much their actions hurt the children who are depicted in the material. It is possible to help some offenders stop if they are helped to understand the consequences of their actions.


Lucy Faithfull Foundation

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a UK charity which runs the only helpline in the UK for people who have concerns about negative aspects of their sexuality.