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IWF: Porn and furniture sites hacked to host child abuse imagery

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has noted an increase in the numbers of legitimate business sites being hacked and used to distribute child abuse images. 

Websites showing fully legal and consensual pornography and retail sites for high street brands have reported hacks. One is the retail site for a well-known furniture brand, which could have potentially led to some seriously upsetting searches for sofas. 

Over the past six weeks, the IWF has received 227 reports of child sexual abuse imagery appearing on mainstream sites. 

IWF: Normal porn sites hacked to host child abuse imagery
The IWF says that its very easy to stumble across child abuse images – whether you’re looking for porn or a pouffe

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Parental Internet ControlsIWF technical researcher Sarah Smith says: “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. 

“It shows how someone, not looking for child sexual abuse images, can stumble across it. The original adult content the internet user is viewing is far removed from anything related to young people or children.” 

The IWF says that these hacks are chiefly intended to indiscriminately spread malware across the web and a number of sites, including those which host illegal imagery. 

The folders of illegal images aren’t directly accessible on a hacked site, meaning you’d be unknowingly redirected to them. If you were searching for adult content or a three piece suite and you clicked on the wrong link you could have being directed to some of what the IWF describes as ‘the worst of the worst’ child sexual abuse images. As a result of the hack, administrators of a hacked site would not initially know what was happening. 

Smith adds: “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 re-trace their steps and take action against the child sexual abuse images. 

“Since identifying this trend we’ve been tracking it and feeding into police forces and our sister Hotlines abroad.” 

The IWF acts as a hotline service, allowing UK citizens to flag and report any child abuse images or any criminally obscene adult content. The government plans to give the IWF and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) more powers so that sources of child abuse imagery can be proactively tracked and arrests can be made. 

The government also wants the four main UK ISPs to block access to pornography by default to prevent children from accessing innapropriate content. The IWF’s report should make for sobering reading for the government, as enabling filters wouldn’t necessarily stop the worst images from hiding on a mainstream, non-pornographic website.

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