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NCA warns of spike in online threats to children during coronavirus lockdown

The agency believes 300,000 individuals in the UK could be attempting to groom children online

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued a statement warning parents of a significant rise in online sexual abuse against children during the coronavirus lockdown.

Parents have been advised to carefully monitor what their children are doing online, particularly as many parents and children will have been forced to stay at home and therefore beyond the safety of security filters used by schools.

Internet use among children has also dramatically increased given that many are relying on online school resources.

The NCA estimates that there are at least 300,000 individuals in the UK capable of child sex offending, whether it is through physical ‘contact’ abuse or online. 

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: 

“It is sickening to think that some criminals are looking to exploit the coronavirus crisis to cause harm online. Despite the issues that the pandemic will cause for law enforcement, child protection is still a priority and we remain totally committed to keeping our young people safe.”

In order to raise awareness of the threat, the NCA is launching “15-minute activities to parents and carers to do with their children” which will be updated fortnightly and available for families of children across all age groups. More information will be provided on the Thinkuknow website.

NCA director of threat leadership, Rob Jones, assured that “the advice and activities on our Thinkuknow website are really important and easily built into home schooling programmes”.

In the US, the FBI has warned that hackers are attempting to disrupt online meetings over Zoom with hate speech and pornographic images. The app is widely used by teachers and students for communication and educational purposes, despite its owners admitting that the service does not use end-to-end encryption.

The FBI Boston Division cited the example of a teacher at a Massachusetts-based high school who, while attempting to host an online class, had their personal details and home address revealed to the class by an unidentified individual who was able to access the conference call.

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