There are a great many hard working security professionals today who are extremely good at their jobs, keeping their employers’ digital assets safe from the bad guys on the internet or raising awareness of information security issues. Via the power of the internet many of these top men and women are gaining the kudos they deserve for all the effort they put into their work. But there are also some unsung heroes out there who are doing similar work without the pay or recognition that they undoubtedly deserve.

One such group of people are the men and women who work for The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

“This is not porn. That legitimizes it in the minds of the perpetrators and confuses the issue. This is abuse.” And every piece of footage is a crime scene.”

Their task is to watch vile abuse of children with a view to not only getting it taken down from the web but also to try and garner as much information as possible to pass onto the authorities and, ultimately, to save lives.

Working from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. IWF team members can expect a salary that is similar to that of a junior social working (circa £20,000 p.a. to start) and have to contend with extremely limited resources. And their work is not getting any easier – since the publicity surrounding the Jimmy Saville case last year they have seen a 42% rise in the number of cases reported to their hotline.

Furthermore, The IWF have discovered that large numbers of websites are being hacked to host images of child sex abuse which are then being viewed by innocent internet users who stumble upon them by accident.

Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live this morning The Internet Watch Foundation said it had received 227 reports of hijacked websites in the last six weeks alone.

The charity also said that ‘legitimate’ pornographic websites had also been attacked and set to redirect visitors to the vile material.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said,

“It means for the person whose accidentally stumbled across it, they’re seeing the worst of the worst without any idea of how it actually happened.”

Whilst keeping this type of sick content off of the web is always a highly desirable aim there has, recently, been far more pressure following high-profile murder cases in which the perpetrators (Stuart Hazell and Mark Bridger) were found to have accessed child and violent porn prior to committing their crimes.

Additionally the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has threatened internet search giants with new laws if they fail to act in blacklisting certain porn related search queries by October.

Whilst Cameron’s thoughts on blocking access to certain types of porn may sound good in theory they may be much harder to implement; a sentiment that seems to be shared by Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency (CEOP).

Gamble said that more investment in law enforcement was required due to the fact that child abuse images were often hidden behind extended security measures –

“These people will go to great lengths to hide who they are and to distribute to their network.

These people aren’t going online and hitting child abuse images in a one click search. They’re going through these very extended security measures, they’re hiding and sharing within specific groups.

We have to get to the back end of this, the root cause, which is people. That’s got to be an investment in law enforcement.”

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