Paedophiles using new method to hide child abuse images online

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

IWF logoPaedophile criminals are finding new ways to distribute images of child abuse, and hide them from the authorities, according to a new report by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

According to the IWF's annual report, some child sexual abuse content is hidden on the web by the trick of displaying different content depending on whether a website is visited via a particular referring website or not.

In other words, if you simply typed in the URL of a website you might be presented with legal, adult pornography. However, if the same website is visited via a particular gateway, the website would know where its traffic has been referred from and display child abuse images instead.

The IWF points out that one issue this has raised is that when a member of the public reports to the authorities the existence of a page hosting child abuse content, an analyst examining the reporting URL may only find legal adult content.

The IWF says that it encountered use of the technique nearly 600 times during 2011, and is working with its partners around the world to tackle the trend.

The IWF is the UK internet hotline for the public to report their inadvertent exposure to online child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world and non-photographic child sexual abuse images, criminally obscene adult content and incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK.

Sophos supports the IWF's aims and works with them to protect internet users from inadvertent exposure to child sexual abuse images. From time to time SophosLabs encounters website content and images in spam which are extremely disturbing, and where appropriate we report these to the IWF.

"It's vitally important to invest in combating the inventiveness of child abusers," said Mark Harris, VP of SophosLabs and Global Engineering Operations at Sophos. "We intercept new methods of distributing images of abuse all too often, and we're committed to reporting all instances to the authorities that identify perpetrators and rescue victims."

You can learn more and download the full report from the IWF's website.

For more information or to report a website visit

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37 Responses to Paedophiles using new method to hide child abuse images online

  1. Really · 1292 days ago

    But if the person reported the link as having child pornography is using the proper referring site that is need, then it seems they visited the site on purpose then reported it in an attempt to disguise their viewing of the material.

    • Guest · 1292 days ago

      That could be very true, but there are dozens if not hundreds of watch groups out there that troll the web looking for such sites to report and or take them down. While this may not always be the case, removing a large cache of child pornography while giving someone the benefit of the doubt is still better than not receiving any tips due to fear of retribution.
      Also the content could be genreated by a virus and or popup, depending on the circumstances though.

      I am curious if anything is being done about the TOR net that has a growing community of paedophiles. While tracing through normal means may not be possible, there are still ways to track down info and or people using it.

  2. Machin Shin · 1292 days ago

    What is really worry some to me is that this greatly increases risk of innocent people getting attacked by law enforcement. If the site shows different pages according to how you visit the site then many people might visit and get the legal content but when law enforcement goes crazy and tries to arrest those who viewed illegal content they are likely to grab everyone who went to the site regardless of how they came to site.

    I hope that I'm just worrying unnecessarily but I have seen examples in the past of technologically clueless police making a mess of things like this. It is too easy for them to say *.com was child porn so everyone who went there is a criminal without slowing down to understand that there were two sites at *.com. This situation is made worse by the seriousness of charge. Being falsely accused of these things can easily destroy someones life. I seriously hope that caution is taken in going after these criminals.

  3. =rand(10,99) · 1292 days ago

    The HTTP referrer header... Now let's hope the guys who are responsible for taking this *** down have a browser that enables referrer spoofing (with the right extension).

  4. Why not chemical castrate them? The harm they do to children is not measureable. They adult lives are ruined. They never become the people they were intended to be and are

    • UK geezer · 1291 days ago

      What if though when they have been chemically castrated they still target children but do it in other ways to get their kicks torture etc?

      Poke their dam eyes out and stick them on a desert island some where with no way to reach land.

      • Michael · 1290 days ago

        Go on, do it. You sound like a dangerous nutter who would :)

      • anonymous · 1277 days ago

        All well and good - fair comment.
        But, first they have to be caught - and some will always get away. This is because the network extends right up to the top in our establishments - judges, MPs, police officers, doctors, and professionals in many walks of life are found to be offenders on a regular basis. Standing up to them is not easy, especially for children under pressure. We just have to face up to it - corruption is rife in our society. It's not just a small group of offenders - it's so widespread as to be almost mainstream.
        And more often than not, those pointing their fingers are the ones to blame.

        • Randy · 1226 days ago

          Only execution has been shown to be 100% effective in stopping repeat offenders. In this case I think it's warranted.

  5. Sham · 1291 days ago

    People always say that, chemically castrate them. Sexual abuse isn't stopped just by castrating someone.

    Let's hope the people behind these websites get convicted though, and get a sentence that reflects the damage they have done. Too often people get off too lightly.

  6. Ben · 1291 days ago

    Hex, while i'll not touch the castration comment with a barge pole as i have no idea how to feel about it, I do personally know abuse victims who have grown up to be happy and fulfilled adults.

    Belittling abuse victims the way you are doing is not helpful.

    • Wednesday · 1253 days ago

      Those kids that grew up to be "happy fulfilled adults" will always feel the pain of having a parent or other "trusted adult" who abused them. Those trust issues may not always be on the surface, but to be sure, when they have children, they are going to have a hard time even trusting their spouse with their child. After all, they and everyone else trusted their abuser. It isn't as simple as you put it.

  7. guest · 1291 days ago

    Why not target the consumer of kiddie porn for surveillance and investigation, rather than get worked up about the browsing of images. We are all, save for a few paedos, equally offended and angry at those who harm kids, and have our prime aim that no more children are harmed. One does not become more righteous in this by abandoning reason, by calling for ever-harsher punishments of those caught or merely suspected of being harmful to kids, or by calling for the burning of books like Lolita. The poster of the images may be a third-world web-master seeking cash; the viewer may be a person who poses not threat to kids, though I wonder about the self-appointed kiddie-porn sniffers in the public. But the guy taking new photos or helping to make videos is the real high-value target.

    • Richard · 1291 days ago

      Reading the rest of your comment, I presume you meant to target the "producer", not the "consumer"?

      I would hope that the producers are being targeted, but that obviously relies on cooperation from local law-enforcement agencies in the country of origin, which is not always forthcoming.

  8. mom2two · 1291 days ago

    this just makes me sad that people would want to see images of such things!

  9. For the people · 1290 days ago

    They should just do away with all porn on the internet and keep it in the videos and magazines. Then maybe there would not be child porn on line. It is disgusting for people to even want to view a child naked. Children are innocent and they deserve to stay that way. Maybe some day the world will wake up,

    I personally think that anyone who has raped a woman, man or gets off on child porn. Should be put on an island where there is no means of being able to do things like that. No power, internet, no nothing! That way if they want to rape anyone they could only do it to each other.

    I agree with the comment that the chemical castration, may only lead to them finding some other sick preverted way to get their kicks. Please God let this world see the light.

    • Richard · 1290 days ago

      You've taken two distinctly different things - "consensual adult porn" and "images of child abuse" - and grouped them together, so that anyone who disagrees with your "get rid of all porn" argument is seen to be in favour of child abuse.

      This is quite similar to the tactics deployed in Canada to bolster support for the recent Internet spying bill. As the minister said, anyone who objects to warrantless surveillance of innocent citizens "stands with the child pornographers".

      I don't know if there's an official name for this type of argument; I tend to think of it as "Emperor's New Clothes" logic.

    • Tsukari · 1282 days ago

      Why stop at porn on the internet? Lets get rid of all porn period. And why stop at porn? Lets get rid of alcohol. There are some people in the world who get abusive and start fights. My grand father used to get drunk and rape my mother when she was growing up. That combined with the health problems that alcohol can cause makes me believe it should be banned completely. But why stop there? Lets ban computers. Our bureaucratic systems use them as an excuse to be disrespectful to others. "I'm sorry, but I can't help you, the computer says you are not eligible." Where do we draw the line? I admit, I do not like alcohol, but people have a right ot choice, even if our laws say oherwise on occasion. Child abuse is wrong, especially that kind of child abuse, but if if we blanket all people who look at porn or all people who drink into the one catagory, which is what we would be doing if we banned all internet porn, then all we do is interfere with people's right to choice. Just as paedophiles take away a childs right to a healthy future. When we take away rights, we are no better than the paedophiles.

  10. johan · 1290 days ago

    It is probably best to stop going after people downloading child porn and concentrate in producers.

    • Tyler · 1277 days ago

      This is exactly what I'm thinking. In fact, most pedophiles watch the kiddy porn as a release so they don't go after an actual child themselves. It's all a big circle though, if one producer is stopped, maybe the 30 people who were receiving that guy's porn will now go out and rape a child because they now have no way to get the porn without hurting a child. I think the people who watch kiddy porn, but do not ever harm a child, are fine. It's basically the same as being gay, however the sexual preference is frowned upon, illegal, and highly immoral so they find comfort in the videos and pictures they watch. The people who actually produce the stuff, raping and abusing a child, should face massive consequences as harming a child is NEVER ok.

      • Mark · 1249 days ago

        The above statement is untrue. People who watch child pornography are doing harm - i.e., if they didn't watch it then there would be no demand for it.

        • Johan · 1135 days ago

          The demand is and always will be there. This also applies to drugs. Still decriminalizing the posession of either drugs or child porn would be the way to go. That would free up a lot of government resources to use on something important without affecting the demand for anything.

      • Molly · 1246 days ago

        Mark below is correct. Where do you think the kiddie porn comes from? Children being raped by adults. Supply and demand. If there were no demand, supply would dry up.
        In addition, your claim that those viewing kiddie porn are therefore 'safer' pedophiles because they've gotten their kicks is the equivalent of saying men who go to strip clubs or visit prostitutes won't have girlfriends and/or wives because their sexual needs are fulfilled. We all know that's not true.
        The fact is that crimes, especially sexual crimes escalate. A window peeper may be considered harmless by some, even encouraged by voyeuristic women/men, but they get less and less sexual gratification from just peeping in windows and move on to breaking into someone's home to lay in their bed, fantasize about a relationship or even steal personal items. Then it escalates to physical contact and so on.
        Just as most serial killers started out torturing small animals, pedophiles start 'small' but need stronger and stronger sexual triggers, moving from 'just' watching kiddie porn and/or fantasizing about children to stalking, to touching and finally raping and eventually murder.

        • nig‭ger · 1135 days ago

          "pedophiles start 'small' but need stronger and stronger sexual triggers, moving from 'just' watching kiddie porn and/or fantasizing about children to stalking, to touching and finally raping and eventually murder. "

          So your logic is everyone will eventually start murdering people no matter if they're pedophiles or not because "they need stronger triggers"..
          The vast majority of pedophiles never go touching or raping kids the same way the majority of men don't go raping women.

  11. Jack · 1277 days ago

    Unfortunately, as a retired Police Officer in Arizona, USA I have seen how badly some people are continuously prosecuted. I understand how you can feel as you do and mostly I agree, especially when they return to do it again. These people are usually indoctrinated as a child themselves, by parents or relatives that the parents trust. Most are also told about how it's ok, but don't tell anyone. I feel that we need to find a way to change the programming and let these people know that they can come to the powers that be and be handled by a psychologist and maybe straitened out so they can live a happy life. I have read about and knew one person that admitted to having sexual relations with a girl 15, when he just turned 18 and she was so close to 16 I don't know if you could tell. He was advised by his attorney and his mother to take the guilty path and take the 3 months of probation. This was a girlfriend of his and they stayed for a number of years until he met another woman and settled down with her. The arising of the 'kids' laws and public emphasis caused the US District Attorney to make these laws retroactive. This is against our Constitution and against many state constitutions. This guy, some 20 years later, had a knock on his door at 5:30 AM in the dark, when he opened it, he was tackled by three sheriff officers cuffed and taken to jail, with him asking what's going on. When they talked to him they stated that he was a sex offender and had to register every time he moved. He advised them this happened over 20 years ago, they said he should have known. Only because some law was crafted and the global affects where not advertised. He lost his home, family and business not to mention his Drivers License was stamped with SEX OFFENDER across the picture. He could not work he could not get an alcohol permit for his business so that was lost. I don't know where he is at now, but this should never happen. Once labeled you are stuck with it for life. Last I heard the state he lived in was trying it for constitutionality. I'm hoping he gets off, there are many that have been shafted via this system. Doesn't seem fair, it's not and I'm sure most of you have never heard of such a thing. Lets hope it doesn't keep running over people. Most people need to the truth before they see the danger of saying they could have this or that when you don't know. DOn't make assumptions when it comes to someones life.

  12. John · 1265 days ago

    Face, the porn industry is wayyyy too big and has billions of dollars in revenue that they would never be allowed to be shut down. Case in point, let's look at the "Canadian Pharmacy" site, (don't go there or it will wreck your computer) but the owners are being hunted by Interpol and they still haven't caught them. Some of the people, (though not all) running some of these porn sites are not nice people and some are downright violent. To try and stop them is both dangerous and impossible.

  13. Guest · 1255 days ago

    If you are concerned about child porn, then you obviously forgot to mention the deep web, it's bloody full of it.

  14. reinaldo · 1239 days ago

    Anti-porn hysteria rides again. Children are deeply harmed by all manner of things. Cruel parents, poor nutrition, bad health care, other bad adult influences. And all these are FAR more prevalent than either paedophilia or child porn.

    Obviously I don't defend either of the latter, but they don't measure up in threat level to physical hunger or lack of health care.

    Everyone wants to censure the things they don't like. I'd love to stop the threat from the ultra-conservative religious nuts--who do much more damage to children and adults. In fact, they cause people to grow up hating spirituality and religion. So let's stop them from spreading their ugliness and violating children through the internet. (Of course, that's written in satire.)

    But the hysteria about child porn and porn in general is a result of sexual inhibitions and authoritarian mindsets. People who think they know more about what others should be able to read and view.

    Children are exploited in the making (Not the viewing) of child pornography, but there is no reliable research that shows an inevitable, long-term ill effect. That's not true for hunger or corporal punishment or lack of health care. A child who doesn't have good nutrition, never catches up. So why not the intensity there? Let's shut down MacDonalds and (especially) Taco Bell, both of which do more damage to more children.

    • Eliiza · 1135 days ago

      Are you actually comparing Child pornographers/offenders and MCDONALDS????
      Perhaps you need to remove yourself from the conversation until you have kids of your own who are threatened by these predators.

  15. Johann E. · 1235 days ago

    Hi all,

    Pardon my naiveity but what exactly is **Criminally Obscene Adult Content** such as the article refers to?

    • Replier · 1170 days ago

      That's an interesting question. There was a change in the rules for this in the UK where it now means any act that causes, or COULD cause, harm or death. The first part of this is obvious, but who decides what 'could' be harmful to individuals involved? At present in the UK the Internet Watch Foundation have been appointed the job of creating the black list of websites that will be blocked by your ISP (including even Wikipedia a couple of years ago when somebody complained about an image of an album cover on one of the articles). The IVF were originally a self-appointed guardian of the internet, with a very small staff. They were then essentially given the keys to the UK internet! Scary stuff, as that black list is very powerful and could be expanded to a list of 'adult content' if the government's proposals to make all adult content opt-in are implemented. It'll mean that any content will disappear from view for most web users simply by being deemed as 'adult'! This could be naked people but it can also be a political belief, or a verbal attack on the government of the day even!! It's sadly probably only a matter of time until this is implemented in the UK.... unless of course you tell your MP to block it?!

  16. Just Nobody · 1232 days ago

    we need a death penalty for a child pornography. That would make them think twice...

  17. Nathan · 1193 days ago

    I can't believed that these people who published rather disturbed child porn online with conceal on it to look innocent when people gets redirect to that website contain legal porn but still hiding the illegal porn. I am disgusted by that and I hope those criminal should be locked up for long time once they are found. All children who were abused deserved a good recovery to good life and good counselling. They deserve to receive a fair justice for what they have done to them by abusing the child(ren). It is nightmare for everyone when we have to try put stop to it. Online is always asking for trouble I can tell. There are abuse, illegal substances, online harassment, etc. I wish it never happen. I thought website is supposed to contain useful information, good websites, etc. But turned out it didn't. Ah well there are crime everywhere it gonna take forever to put stop to it I guess.

  18. Alan · 1172 days ago

    The problem is that this goes far deeper than naked pictures of children. It extends to all manner of abuse and involves everything you may see in "adult" porn. There is also the likelihood that children are kidnapped for use in this disgusting trade and may well be killed or "sold" to other perverts when they are no longer required.

    Just today in Australia a young male (~20y.o.) was charged with THE RAPE OF A 5 YEAR OLD GIRL!

    I seriously doubt that paedophiles can ever be rehabilitated - they firmly believe they are doing nothing wrong so they don't need to change. Then again, I don't see why taxpayers should have to bear the cost of keeping this vermin in jail.

    It is an unfortunate fact that the death penalty does not work as a disincentive to criminal behaviour, if only for the reason that they believe they won't be caught. It does, however ensure that those who are executed do not re-offend.

    I think the do-gooders out there have a lot to answer for when it comes to appropriate sentencing of criminals.

  19. Internaut · 1138 days ago

    I've been an Internaut since Pinemail, Zmodem, and 300 Baud transfer rates. I can say that I've seen it all. From the time the time Fidonet dislocated some nodes in Texas against a national 'man and boy' relationship group that infiltrated the K-12 groups, to what I read here.

    Over and over again, they are arrested, and released to pick up where they left off. There was the story of some years ago of the two US lawyers who were funding whole series of corn through places like Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Russia, and the Ukraine.
    It was discovered that they paid mom and dad $500.00 USD per series. Enough to get their children and themselves a better life. Unfortunately, money talks - even to parents.

    More money is spent on US election campaigns in one month than there is spent on curbing or arresting the problem. Occasionally, we read how an X # of arrests were made by those sharing the -stuff-. Why? There is big coin involved. I think it all points to the same as the war on drugs, the war against the Taliban, the control of the mid-east.It ain't happening.

    More research on preventation is needed immediately. These men and women convicted of creating, selling, and maintaining cporn need to be analyzed - with or without their permission. Being abused as a child may have a bearing on their state, but it's how to recognize the state and correct it before it becomes a problem.

    Just one thing, chemical castration (does not kill the urge), or death penalty, or public labeling and branding isn't going to prevent them from trying. It's a reactionary rather than preventive approach by governments. These should all come together and the bulk spent on prevention, rather than detection. But it all has to work together IMHO.

    Why? Because since 1983 - nothing has really changed.


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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley