Websites hacked to host child sex abuse images

5th August 2013

Websites of respectable businesses are being hacked and internet users presented with some of the worst images of child sexual abuse, in a very disturbing new trend which seems to be gaining popularity amongst paedophiles.

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Internet users viewing 'normal' adult content are at risk of seeing these images when re-directed from other sites they are using.

In one example described by The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a furniture website was hacked and a folder containing hundreds of child sexual abuse images uploaded. These images were of the youngest children and the most severe levels of abuse, says the charity. The folder is not accessible directly from the hacked website, but from other websites containing adult content.

In a press release issued earlier today, the IWF describes what would typically happen:

– An internet user would be surfing adult content (website A).
– Upon clicking an image or video on the adult site they would unknowingly be redirected to a folder containing the child sexual abuse images – which had been placed on the hacked website (website B).
– The administrators of the adult site and the hacked site would not know this is happening – a third party has set up the‘diversion’ from one site to another and planted the folder of images.

The IWF has received 227 reports regarding this trend over the past six weeks.

The charity's Technical Researcher Sarah Smith commented: “We hadn’t seen significant numbers of hacked websites for around two years, and then suddenly in June we started seeing this happening more and more. It shows how someone, not looking for child sexual abuse images, can stumble across it. The original adult content the internet user is viewing is far removed from anything related to young people or children."

Ms Smith continued: “We’ve received reports from people distressed about what they’ve seen. Our reporters have been extremely diligent in explaining exactly what happened, enabling our analysts to re-trace their steps and take action against the child sexual abuse images. Since identifying this trend we’ve been tracking it and feeding into police forces and our sister hotlines abroad.” In all cases the IWF has worked with partners to remove the folder of child sexual abuse images.

The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide a hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The service can be used anonymously to report the following content:

– Child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
– Criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK
– Non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK

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