An international law enforcement operation led by the German Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt) has resulted in the takedown of one of Europe’s most prolific child sexual abuse platforms on the dark web that boasted nearly half a million customers.
Cyber crime is not just about groups of greedy computer geeks going after individuals and corporations to make big money or unscrupulous businessmen selling illegal or counterfeit goods online, it also includes the widespread abuse of people's security and privacy online, often at the expense of the most vulnerable sections.
Earlier this week, Europol announced that law enforcement authorities in several countries successfully took down one of Europe’s most prolific child sexual abuse platforms on the dark web. The operation led to the arrest of four German nationals in Germany and Paraguay who played various roles in running the site on the dark web.
Named Boystown, the dark web platform focused on the sexual abuse of children and enjoyed as many as 400,000 registered users before it was taken down. The operation involves the participation of authorities from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Europol, however, warns that the success in no way suggests that authorities have put a full stop on the running of large-scale child sexual abuse platforms. "Online child offender communities on the dark web exhibit considerable resilience in response to law enforcement actions targeting them. Their reactions include resurrecting old communities, establishing new communities, and making strong efforts to organise and administer them," it said.
This indicates that child sexual abuse websites may continue to proliferate on the dark web unless people running such sites are brought to justice or isolated from the public. This also indicates that cyber criminals adhere to no moral principles when it comes to raking in money on dark web platforms.
In April last year, A 20-year-old barman in Darlington was sentenced to nine months in prison for making and uploading over 45,000 child abuse images on the Dark Web, over 36,000 of which belong to the worst category A level.
The NCA found that Chapman used the Dark Web and various anonymisation techniques to hide his true identity. He also admitted that he made indecent images of children. While over 36,000 images were of the worst category A level, 8,831 were of category B, and 634 of category C level.
“Every child in an abuse image is revictimised when the photograph is viewed or shared. Chapman’s use of the dark web shows a degree of sophistication and a determination to avoid law enforcement detection. Dark web child sex offenders – some of whom are the very worst offenders – cannot hide from law enforcement,” said Graham Ellis, NCA operations manager.
“Child sexual abuse remains a priority threat for the agency at this difficult time. Though we are working around the virus like everyone else, we are continuing to pursue high-risk online offenders to ensure they are arrested and children are safeguarded,” said NCA director of threat leadership, Rob Jones.
“Preventing offences occurring is always crucial and now more so than ever when there are masses of online traffic and a possible elevated threat to children. We are redoubling our efforts to promote our online safety messages to children, parents, carers, and teachers and are working with partners to keep children safe.
“We have long said that we want the tech industry to do more to protect children. The advice and activities on our Thinkuknow website are really important and easily built into homeschooling programmes,” he added.