PREDATORS EXPLOIT SIBLINGS
A new study raises fears of a growing trend for online predators to groom children for sexual exploitation and then to trick or coerce them into involving their siblings or friends too. The Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based charity dedicated to removing child sexual abuse images online, identified a growth in images of siblings, after analysing online content in the last quarter of 2020. It found 511 images and videos showing self-generated child sexual abuse images involving siblings, including children aged between 3 and 16 but averaging 10 and 12 years.
The report, which will be published in full in April, notes that the filming in most cases took place within a home environment. It involved both boys and girls and in 46% of cases the abuse was of the most serious category. The study will be used in the IWFs awareness and educational campaigns.
Research into the experience of users of online video services, which allow users to upload and share their content with the public, has revealed some concerning statistics. The Ofcom report found that 32% of users have witnessed or experienced hateful content, 26% had been exposed to bullying, abuse or violence and 21% had witnessed or experienced racist content. 70% of all users, and 79% of 13-17 year olds, reported having been exposed to a potentially harmful experience in the last 3 months.
Ofcom expects such platforms to protect users from harmful content, whilst recognising that it is impossible to prevent all harm. It has issued guidance requiring clear rules and effective enforcement, easy to use tools to flag or report harmful content and effective age-verification procedures to exclude under 18s from sites containing high amounts of pornographic content.
CYBER ATTACKS IN EDUCATION
There has been an increase in cyber-attacks on educational settings. Attacks often result in ransomware being installed due to inadequate passwords, lack of additional verification processes, or software vulnerabilities. As a result the National Cyber Security Centre has issued an alert to schools with practical steps they can take to protect themselves including anti-virus protection and data back-up arrangements.
Cases of impersonation fraud, where criminals pose as a trusted organisation to convince victims to make payments or to reveal their personal or financial information, increased by nearly double last year according to a report by UK Finance.
One such example can be found in a current phishing scam involving automated calls advising that people’s National Insurance number had been compromised and encouraging them to “press 1”. This has been highlighted by National Fraud who also report over 15,000 cases of email and social media hacking in the last year, a number which is likely to be much lower than actual cases due to the under-reporting of this type of fraud.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau which analyses fraud statistics, found that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were the most commonly reported accounts, with Facebook breaches commonly leading to fraud and Instagram and Snapchat often being used to obtain intimate images for use in blackmail or sextortion. They recommend using strong and separate passwords for each account and activating two-factor authentication.
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