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Google and ISPs efforts won't stop spread of child abuse images, warns NetClean CEO

ISP blocks can't stop spread of child abuse images through P2P and shadow internet networks.

shadowy hands over a keyboard

Efforts to curb the availability of child abuse images online should not be limited to the searchable web, as criminals are increasingly turning to P2P networks and the dark web to distribute content.

This week has seen a series of ISPs and web firms talk up the work they are doing to clamp down on the proliferation of child abuse images on the net.

Google announced plans to invest millions of pounds in this area, while Talk Talk, BT, Sky and Virgin Media committed to collectively invest 1 million over the next four years in tackling the problem.

The bulk of their activities seem to be centred on the eradication, tracking and blocking of child abuse images on the searchable web,

However, concerns have been raised that not enough is being done to clampdown on similar content being shared via P2P and anonymised web networks.

Speaking to IT Pro, Christian Berg, chief executive of NetClean, said criminals are likely to use these alternative networks more to distribute illegal content if it becomes harder to do on the searchable web.

"You cannot solve this problem simply by blocking [http traffic]. It is an important piece of the puzzle, but there are so many ways of sharing this material and http [addresses] are not the preferred [method of distribution]," he explained.

"There's definitely not enough being done to tackle these [hidden networks], and I know there is a will by law enforcers to do more, but resources are tight."

He also said it is easy to tell search engines, social networks and the ISP community they need to do more, but the issue is not quite as straight forward as that.

"People look at Google and the ISPs and say this is a problem of the internet and you're a bit part of the internet, you have to fix it," he explained.

"Obviously, the internet is being used to spread it, but child abuse is really not an internet problem. It's a human one."

A lot of this week's discussions about how to approach the issue have centred on URL blocking, but Berg questioned how effective a tool this is.

"It is usually employed to protect UK citizens from accidentally stumbling on illegal content, rather than track down criminals, he said.

"If you are into this material you don't have to be very tech savvy to know how to circumnavigate it," he added.

His company develops technologies and software that blocks and tracks the online spread of child abuse content, which is used by law enforcement agencies and enterprises.

"We sell our software to organisations that can scan their servers, their laptops and desktops for known child abuse images and videos," he explained.

"We're not talking about URLs, but actual files, which means we can find things on USB sticks too, [and]

"[We then tell] the organisation they need to do an investigation and notify the police," he added.

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