WhatsApp, Facebook favourite platform of sexual predators of kids: Experts

WhatsApp, Facebook favourite platform of sexual predators of kids: Experts
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Kolkata, December 17: WhatsApp, Facebook, dating sites and interactive video games are among the favourite platforms of sexual predators of children, according to cyber crime experts from various parts of the world, who called for greater cooperation between probe agencies of different countries to combat the menace.
At a conference in Kolkata, they also observed that sexual exploitation of children has increased exponentially with the advent of internet and tracking down perpetrators has become more difficult because internet has no borders.
The conference organised by International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-government organisation headquartered in the US, and the West Bengal Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) was attended by several experts, including police officers, lawyers, judges and officials of non-government organisations from countries such as USA, Germany, Netherlands, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya and India.
Justice Eric Bradshaw, of Kern County Superior Court, California, noted that the efficiency of sexual exploiters has increased with the use of technology.
“Greater cooperation between law enforcing agencies of various countries is needed for effective crackdown on rackets involving sexual exploitation of children,” he said.
Deputy superintendent of police, cybercrime division of the criminal investigation department (CID), Bengaluru, Sharath, who was honoured with the ‘India Cyber Cop Award for Excellence in Cyber Crime Investigation’ in 2015, echoed the judge’s point.
“We, in Bengaluru, are in constant touch with the US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which provides location-based data to many countries. However, criminals often enjoy the advantage of being located in a different country,” he said.
David Vincent Ruggiero, director of investigation and law enforcement development at the IJM, said crimes happen on private chats, video calls and live streams.
“Children are being used in front of cameras on mobile phones or computers and someone sitting thousands of miles away, often in a different country, is paying to watch it. Families are often complicit it this. Even interactive video games are being used to entrap children,” Ruggiero said.
Lida van Dijk, a police detective from Netherlands who has been dealing with crimes related to sexual exploitation, and Indian police officers Ajey Mukund Ranade and V Balakrishnan seconded their points.
“It is very easy for criminals to stay anonymous and hide identity on the internet. Encrypted applications make it doubly difficult for us track down the perpetrator, and often even to bust a crime. Borderless nature of the internet has given perpetrators another edge over law enforcers,” said Dijk, adding that sexual exploitation rackets are more organised than ever before.
According to Ranade, inspector general of police, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), West Bengal, “Online sexual exploitation of children is increasing at rapid pace due to lack of public awareness on cyber safety aspects. Children are knowingly and unknowingly posting revealing and compromising photos and videos on social networking platforms. When exploiters hack the storage space, the children become victims of blackmail.”
Experts said photos and videos shared on these platforms are stored in clouds and are vulnerable to hacking. They also advised computer users against giving remote access to people not fully known and trusted.
According to Astewaye Yigzaw, who earlier worked with Washington DC police department as a criminal research specialist and the US-based non-profit organisation National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), approximately 7.5 lakh sexual predators worldwide are online at any given moment, while a third of the world’s internet users are less than 18 years old.
“Since internet allows a sexual exploiter to stay in the comfort of his or her home, the exploitation is going exponential and children are at far greater risk than before,” said Yigzaw, who is now a senior criminal analyst at IJM.
IJM organised the conference in collaboration with West Bengal Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR).
While ethical hacker Rizwan Shaikh said investigation becomes next to impossible when criminals use dark web – which makes up 96% of the internet – and transact in bit coins, Chennai joint commissioner of police, V Balakrishnan said most criminals involved in sexual exploitation of children in India are still using surface web, mostly because too few underage boys and girls use deep or dark web.
“The more sophisticated criminals use deep web and bitcoins. The majority are using platforms that are popular among children and teenagers,” Balakrishnan said. (Courtesy: HT)