Britain Cracks Down On Child Porn Online
LONDON-Police forces across England and Wales have taken part in the
biggest international operation against Internet pedophiles.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Landmark, has successfully identified 12
suspected pedophiles in the United Kingdom. At 10 p.m. PST Tuesday, the
National Crime Squad (NCS) coordinated dawn raids on the 12 British targets,
computers and software were seized as evidence.
The NCS confirmed that it will use sophisticated face-mapping software to
identify the children depicted in 60,000 pornographic images obtained
through the raids. A source close to the international investigation said
the new software is designed to help trace the whereabouts of the victims
and their abusers.
Detective Superintendent Peter Spindler, leading the investigation for the
NCS, said, "This operation has sadly and distressingly brought thousands of
new images of abuse to our attention. These young victims need to be
identified and protected as quickly as possible."
Information technology company Serco Group was commissioned to develop the
face-recognition software for the NCS following Operation Cathedral--an
international operation that led to the arrest and imprisonment of the
world's largest Internet pedophile ring, the Wonderland Club. All
information gathered using the new software will be entered into an
international police database.
"We hope that the database can be used to identify children who are being
systematically abused for the gratification of a small but dangerous section
of society," Spindler said.
A combination of existing software has been used to develop the face-mapping
tool and has been designed according to the NCS and Interpol specifications.
"Until now, most of the face-recognition that has been done on file images
has only worked if the picture is exact," a source said. "A number of police
databases already contain hashes of known pedophile images, but the moment
the picture becomes cropped, it no longer works."
The new software will allow officers at the NCS and the National Hi-Tech
Crime Unit (NHTCU) to identify abused children who may look slightly
different from one picture to another. It will also provide intelligence on
the background in the photos, which could be used to determine the room in
which the photos were taken and then linked to the abuser or photographer.
"This is an experimental exercise--I'm not sure how effective the software
is," the source said.
A group effort-
The latest police raids were carried out in 19 countries during the night.
Throughout the four continents involved, 130 search warrants were executed.
Over the past 12 months, more than 30 newsgroups known to regularly host
indecent images of children were closely monitored by international police
Speaking on Radio 4's Today program, Spindler said Demon Internet, a British
Internet service provider, was asked to monitor its servers on a particular
day. The data collected revealed that 10,000 people accessed the offending
newsgroups that day. This figure was narrowed to 2,800 people who visited
the groups at least 10 times, and finally 130 targets were identified for
showing evidence of committing criminal offences online.
"With the assistance of Demon Internet and the support and guidance of the
National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, we are able to show that those accessing these
newsgroups did so regularly and with purpose," said Spindler.
"We also learned, not surprisingly, that those abusing the Internet have
learned from recent police successes how best to protect their true
The NCS distributed the intelligence to the relevant police forces across
the United Kingdom, and ISPs were approached for the Internet account
details of the 12 British suspects.