The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has discovered that dozens of businesses have had their servers hacked to host child sexual abuse images online.
There has been a recent surge in business server hacks to host child abuse images, according to the IWF, which also stated that legal pornographic sites had also been plagued by the same infiltration.
Over the past six weeks, the IWF said it had received 227 reports of server hacks, although some of these reports were about the same complaints.
“We don’t understand this entirely, but some company websites have been hacked into and some of this appalling material has been placed there”, said Sir Richard Tilt, IWF Chairman.
The IWF said the images that had emerged in the past six weeks featured “the worst of the worst” images it had seen, including newborn babies and the abuse of very young children.
“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,” said Sarah Smith, tech researcher for IWF. “It shows how someone not looking for child sexual abuse images can stumble across it.”
One furniture company had its servers hacked, with the attackers creating a specific “orphan folder” on its systems. Hundreds of offending image were then uploaded to that folder, creating a separate section of the website containing the images.
Legitimate adult content sites were also hacked, meaning that when a user clicked on a pornographic image they would be taken to child abuse sites rather than the presented content.
“The original adult content the internet user is viewing is far removed from anything related to young people or children,” added Smith. “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 retrace their steps and take action against the child sexual abuse images.”
The NSPCC has urged that anyone stumbling across child abuse images should immediately report them. It said that “something like 16 per cent of men in particular” are already failing to do so, which could be damaging to the users who don’t report the offending material.
“We really encourage them to report it because potentially you’ll then have a thumbnail of that image somewhere hidden in your computer system even if you only clicked on it for one second,” said NSPCC spokesperson, Claire Lilley.
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