Computer Crime Research Center


Child Pornography on the Internet--What to do?

Date: June 24, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Robert T DeMarco

If you are a parent of a child between the ages of 10-17 it is likely that your child is receiving unsolicited pornographic images. These are typically sent by “bots” to everyone who enters a chat room where children congregate. If you don’t believe this then all you need to do is set up a profile describing yourself as a 14 year old and start entering a few chat rooms. It will not be long before you will start getting bombarded by unsolicited instant messages (IMs) with embedded hyperlinks that lead to pornography. It also won’t be long before you receive IMs from anonymous strangers asking you what you are wearing and asking questions of a sexual nature. Some of these anonymous strangers are adults disguised as kids looking for vulnerable or inquisitive kids. When this occurs you become a candidate for a more sinister and illegal form of pornography–child pornography.

Recently, I wrote a series of articles about pedophilia and child pornography on the Internet. As a result, many people asked me to write an article about what to do when a child receives a pornographic image or a sexual solicitation while on the Internet. There are three good ways to deal with this problem: use the CyberTipline offered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), contact the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) unit near you, or call your local law enforcement department and ask for the Internet crimes unit. I will explain the importance of taking action below.

The best way to report a crime against a child is by using the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline. The CyberTipline contains unique categories for:

• Possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography
• unsolicited obscene material sent to a child
• online enticement of children for sexual acts
• child prostitution
• and, child sexual molestation (not in the family)

While each report section asks for specific information it is important to try and capture the information when you first notice the problem. Where did the incident occur (which ISP, which domain name)? The screen name or email address of the perpetrator. And to copy any email, instant message, or the image if it is separate from a webpage (if it comes as an attachment).

NCMEC maintains a very sophisticated database in conjunction with the FBI. By sending the image to them, you could accomplish more than you might imagine. The FBI has a specific methodology of examining each image. In effect, each image is like a partial fingerprint. If they can associate a series of images they might actually be able to identify a specific place where the image was taken (a state, city, or country). Over time as they collect information they can narrow the geographic area to the point where they can then get the picture of the child to local law enforcement which then might be able to identify the child and identify the perpetrator of the crime. So while it will take several minutes to report the incident you might be the one person who helps save the life and future of the victim–the child. In 2003, NCMEC received more than 200,000 images via its CyberTipline. I can assure you only a tiny fraction of parents are aware of this resource.

If you prefer you can locate the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force near you. The detectives that work in these units are specifically trained to handle crimes against children. In some cases, they might want to assume the identity (screen name persona) of your child with the express purpose of bringing the perpetrator of the crime into the real world where the “perp” will be arrested.

The easiest, but not necessarily the most effective action, is to call your local police department and ask for the Internet crimes department. If they don’t have the appropriate person on staff, they will know what to do next.

While I know that the detectives working in Internet crime unit are doing a great job, I also know they are buried under a never ending and still growing number of cases. Over time I have come to believe that one of the most effective ways to combat this sinister problem is get more parents and teachers involved. I will continue to write on this issue and explain my growing belief that teachers might be the most effective deterrent to these perpetrators of crimes against children. I’ll tackle that issue shortly.

If you are interested in reading more on this issue go to Watch Right Internet Crimes Against Children Weblog

Teachers, parents and law enforcement agencies can get a free syndicated news feed for their Home Pages at Watch Right Internet Crimes Against Children Syndicated Feed

About the Author

Robert T DeMarco is CEO of IP Group in Herndon VA. IP Group offers software communication tools for use on the Internet. These include: PowerTools, Watch Right, Always on Time and IM Frame. Mr. DeMarco is the author/editor of several Weblogs and is also a member of the High Tech Crimes Industry Association (HTCIA).

Robert T DeMarco
[email protected]

Other Resources and Blogs

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation

U.S. Customs Child Pornography Enforcement Program

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