“With technology comes security and responsibility”

The cyber crusaders of Somaiya Vidyavihar University along with Cyber Peace Foundation (CPF), developed and completed a social responsibility project dealing with the ‘Landscape Analysis of Online Child Trafficking and Online Child Sexual Exploitation, funded by Children's Investment Fund Foundation-CIFF, a philanthropic organization (registered in England & Wales).

Child trafficking is a heart-wrenching reality that is escalating by the day, with perpetrators finding new ways of luring and trapping the young spirits – technology being one. The new generations of children are beyond the tech-savvy bracket, their minds and passion now tuned to technological guidance and adaption. The path that leads to exploring their vision can also be used for exploiting the minds. Under the umbrella of cybercrime, these heinous acts are categorized as Online Child Sexual Abuse (OCSA) and Online Child Sexual Exploitation’ (OCSE). A study to understand the prevalence of online exploitation in children is taking precedence in this technology-driven era.

"Online Technologies are strong waves, a ripple of misintent can sabotage the sanity of children and open channels for Sexual Exploitation. As technologists we must check such intentions!!” says Dr Irfan Siddavatam, the team lead for this project.

 

The intent of this study was to provide technology-aided informed interventions for NGOs, law-enforcing agents, survivors, and related stakeholders to curb child abuse and exploitation. The team compiled incidences of objectionable contents: Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), which were directly or indirectly propositioning for child abuse and/or exploitation in the social media. The data regarding prevalence of CSAM in open web platforms (surface web) as well as hidden web platforms (dark web – a subset of the deep web) was collated, compared and inferred through statistical analysis. An unobtrusive approach – documenting participant’s observations without the reviewer being active/present - was adapted for data collection. For proposing preventive operational mechanisms for safeguarding the children, the team jointed hands with CPF, an open security community. CPF offered their consultancy to conduct field surveys with all stakeholders involved. This information helped in understanding the ground-reality of CSAM related incidences in real life scenarios.

This short term study, spanning over 3 months helped in landscaping how online technologies are being used as a tool to select and identify innocent targets. After completing the project milestones, the team is currently working on submitting the outcomes to CIFF.

Key Findings

  • Reports the most prevalent online technologies, their reach and spread and the reported incidence of these technologies being an enabler for OCSA and OCSE.
  • Provides the search results performed using keyword search on the surface, deep web and mobile app store (Google Play Store).
  • It reports the finding of semi-structured interviews carried out as a part of on-field to understand the ground reality of the prevalence of OCSA and OCSE.
  • Finally, it presents a systematic literature review of pertinent academic articles

With every birth there is a new opportunity, with every breath there is a new hope and with every child there is a new responsibility. It’s our moral code & responsibility that we take measures to secure and nourish their future minds. Human interventions & intelligence are no longer enough to identify and prevent child abuse and exploitation; with the aid of data networks and artificial intelligence, we will create a new brave world for children.

Published on: February 2020