Paedophiles reportedly have been trading child sexual abuse images for bitcoin, revealed the Internet Watch Foundation/IWF in its annual report for 2014.
The group has been tasked with addressing the problem of child sexual abuse images online and the team identified that the “most prolific commercial” child abuse sites had started accepting digital currency for selling images in 2014. Around 37 websites were identified by the group for selling images for Bitcoins from January through April 2014.
The 31,266 URLs found hosting pictures and videos of children being sexually abused in 2014 as a 137 percent increase on the total in 2013, although the IWF put that rise down to improved search methods.
The research team also announced that illegal material was being sold on a legitimate website in folders. These websites were already hacked and their URLs were distributed through spam emails.
Digital currency, that is, bitcoin contains numerous properties and this makes it suitable for exchanging child sex abuse images. Cryptocurrency has been fully decentralized and therefore, no single authority can stop its trading or blacklist sellers and buyers.
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On the whole, the problem is pseudonymous as there is no connection between a bitcoin wallet and the real world. If the currency is cautiously used, it becomes nearly impossible to identify people conducting its online trades. This aspect, in fact, is responsible for the first major real-world use of Bitcoin, the creation of the first online drugs bazaar, the Silk Road.
The currency is usually referred to as “anonymous and untraceable” however; its design has a number of elements that are being used by law enforcement agencies to track down those trying to use bitcoin currency illegitimately. Bitcoin’s decentralized nature implies that every transaction is made publicly and to transform it into conventional real-world currency it must be bought and sold via a dedicated bitcoin exchange. Bitcoin exchanges are usually legally required to store a detailed record of its customers so as to stay in compliance with the money-laundering regulations.
According to IWF, its team of researchers is working with many of the world’s largest exchanges of bitcoin to develop strategies and share intelligence for avoiding the use of this currency by child sexual abuse images distributors.
IWF’s external relations director Emma Hardy stated:
“One area we look at in particular is the commerciality of child sexual abuse images and videos – people who want to buy and sell this type of content online.”
“We noticed for the first time ever last year that cryptocurrency or bitcoin was being used. We need to ensure we engage with those who run bitcoin services but also other ordinary payment mechanisms, financial providers, to ensure we can help prevent them being abused by criminals.”
It was also revealed in IWF’s annual report that astounding increase in the number of web pages selling child sexual abuse images has been observed with 137% increase in comparison to the rate of the previous year.
Read the complete report below:
Source: The Guardian