File sharing is the most common method of distributing child sexual abuse material

When asked the question ‘which methods are most commonly used to share and distribute child sexual abuse material?’, 90 per cent of the police officers answered P2P/file sharing. Other common ways to distribute child sexual abuse material is through darknet/TOR, social media, cloud based services and instant messaging.

P2P is not only the most common way to share material, it is also where the majority of the material is shared. The police officers in the survey reported that 50-80 per cent of all material found is through P2P and file sharing.

The most common methods used to share child sexual abuse material (multiple choice question)

1. P2P/file sharing services 90,4 %
2. TOR/Darknet 43 %
3. Sociala media platforms 37,9 %
4. Cloud based services 34,9 %
5. Instant messaging 34,9 %
6. E-mail 21,3 %
7. Websites 17,3 %
8. Mail* 6,3 %

*USB, DVD or similar

However, it is important to emphasise that just because law enforcement find most of the material on P2P networks, that does not have to be a correct reflection of where most of the material actually is. Many police officers commented that TOR is probably more commonly used to share child sexual abuse material than what is reflected in the investigations.

”I am not sure P2P is most common. It is the easiest way to catch people. TOR is very difficult to catch people but probably more prevalent than we know.“

”I believe TOR is another frequently used venue – it is more difficult however to find artefacts proving TOR was the venue for distribution.”

“P2P/file sharing services are the most common when you work proactively. Passively, we receive more reports from social media platforms.”

”Most suspects combine several of these techniques, particularly email, cloud-based, and social media.”

A number of police officers also highlighted that they see an increasing trend towards material being distributed through cloud based services.

“Increased use of cloud based storage.”

”Less P2P, more cloudshare and forum/TOR usage.”

“Back up to cloud storage which makes it hard to make sure the pictures are gone.”

P2P (peer-to-peer) / file sharing

P2P (peer-to-peer)/file sharing A way to directly share files between two or more people without having to store the files on a central server. It is called P2P because the users within the network have equal status. Examples of file sharing services are The Pirate Bay, Gnutella and Kazaa.

TOR / Darknet

Darknet is often confused with deepnet/deepweb. Deepnet is everything on the web that is not searchable through search engines such as Google, Intranets, databases, password protected sites or sites that require payment. Darknet refers to anonymous websites and encrypted networks that are most commonly reached via TOR. TOR makes it possible to communicate anonymously over the Internet.

Cloud based services

Make it possible to store and share data files with others without having to save the material locally. Examples of cloud based services are Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, iCloud and Box.

Instant Messaging

Makes it possible to send an instant message directly to another person through an app or the web. It is often also possible to transfer files, or have video conversations through instant messaging services. Example of instant messaging services are Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger and iChat.

Comments about the result:

The latest material is shared on TOR
INTERPOL, Crimes against Children unit, Vulnerable Communities Team.

It is difficult to assess exactly where the children in the images come from since there are a large amount of images…

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More information is needed on how child sexual abuse material is shared
Björn Sellström, Swedish Police, NOA.

There is a lack of comprehensive and well researched information on where and how the largest proportion of…

READ MORE

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