MP calls on IT industry to help tackle "dark net" criminals

James Brokenshire, the minister for crime and security, calls for industry support for child abuse net clean-up.

Internet search

Efforts by internet search providers to make it harder for people to stumble across images of child abuse online have already started to make a difference, it has been claimed.

As reported by IT Pro, Google and Microsoft both vowed earlier this month to tweak their algorithms to make it harder for people to use their search engines to source images and videos depicting child abuse.

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James Brokenshire MP, the Government minister for crime and security, talked up the positive impact the firms' actions have had at the Internet Service Providers' Association's (ISPA) annual conference in central London yesterday.

To tackle the sophisticated offender, for example, those who use tools like the Onion Router Tor, we need to engage with industry and use your tools.

"The Prime Minister has called for more action to tackle the availability and sharing of images and in particular that search engines should take responsibility for ensuring it is difficult to access indecent images through their services," said Brokenshire.

"The search engines have made changes to their search functions to support this, and the National Crime Agency's testing of these new measures shows they have been effective [in making] it harder to view child abuse videos, images and pathways."

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One of the major criticisms the Government has faced in response to the pressure put on search engines to clean up their services is that criminals are more likely to use the "dark net" to distribute illegal content than Google or Bing.

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Brokenshire touched on this issue during his keynote, and explained the Government's decision to focus on this area was designed to deter the "relatively unsophisticated offenders" and to prevent people inadvertently stumbling across illegal content.

"To tackle the sophisticated offender, for example, those who use tools like the Onion Router Tor, we need to engage with industry and use your tools," he said.

This is an area that is expected to be covered during the first meeting on 9 December 2013 of a new taskforce, co-chaired by the policing minister and the US assistant attorney general, that aims to combat online child sexual exploitation crimes on the internet.

"CEOP, the FBI and the Homeland Security Investigations will all be members. The taskforce will work hand-in-hand with an industry solutions group that will design technological solutions [to solve these issues]," Brokenshire added.

During his time on stage, Brokenshire also gave an account of the work being done to help police forces tackle the growing issue of cybercrime, and bolster the UK's overall response to online threats.

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"We aim to train 5,000 police officers and staff by 2015 and it is about raising skills and knowledge and expertise in both the national sense, but also how we can equally push this up from frontline policing, ensuring that digital skills are embedded in day-to-day policing," he said.

Furthermore, the Government is also planning to run an awareness campaign for consumers and SMBs early next year to educate them about staying safe online, which he said has already won the backing of ISPs, anti-virus firms and telcos.

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