back to article GCHQ, police to team up to hunt down child abuse on the darknet

GCHQ is to team up with the UK's National Crime Agency to target paedophiles sharing child abuse images on the "dark net". The as-yet-unnamed unit will focus on developing technology capable of scouring the underbelly of the internet for child abuse-related chat and image exchanges. It will also focus on the most prolific …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smokescreen

    Pretty sure this won't remain the whole remit of the developed tools, teams and structures

    still, how could we possibly complain, it's about the children isn't it and nobody dare go near that, the recent marketing campaigns have been very persuasive

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how many government members and people at the BBC they'll find?

    1. dogged

      None that they'll report.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The IWF are heroes, ronseal

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am very concerned what other dodgy things they will get up to under the guise of looking for paedos... but I am sure it is in the national interest that we never find out :)

    At least this proves once and for all the GCHQ are all good guys and we definitely need them forever, right?

    however, one bit of bright news - I just watched cameron purring away on tv that apparently Microsoft, Google and Mozilla were going to implement blocking of individual images through their browsers based on hashvalues... I could see my browsing speed slow down to treacle standards while every single image on a webpage had to be checked against a hash-table all known child abuse images before displayed... thankfully the register seems to have listened to what 'they' actually had to say:

    "Meanwhile Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have committed to investigate the feasibility of implementing browser-level blocking restrictions designed to prevent people getting access to URLs of known child abuse material."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The article says URL blocking for browsers, not image hashes, not that it's much better. If the major browsers do this, I will be ditching them all. No need for a third party blacklist, even if it wasn't the "charity" that blocked album covers.

      1. streaky

        "If the major browsers do this, I will be ditching them all"

        A non-inconsequential number of the browsers listed are open source so they can do what the hell they like. Debian won't have a censoring browser in their distro I wouldn't imagine so they'll carry on maintaining their fork. I don't trust the lists that come out and neither should anybody else; nobody stumbles upon child porn accidentally so the technology doesn't need to exist, the end. Frankly in Firefox's case it probably wouldn't even need a fork - an extension would probably be capable of destroying the list.

        The reality is this technology will be abused by you know who in the courts because once you have it you have to use it to "do good" without actually proving that you're doing good or ever seeing a jury that can be nullified.

        Not for nothing but the whole project is an absurd waste of taxpayer funds - even if it works on a technical level we're not the world police and foreign courts will laugh at us. Wish Cameron would get some degree of clue before he starts on his nonsense adventures.

    2. Joe 48

      @AC "I am very concerned what other dodgy things they will get up to under the guise of looking for paedos... but I am sure it is in the national interest that we never find out :)"

      You appear to be under the delusion they need an excuse.

      1. Uffish

        Excuse

        They evidently believe that they don't need an excuse, but just in case...

        Nice one security bods, who could ever criticise you now.

  5. Snorlax

    "Meanwhile Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have committed to investigate the feasibility of implementing browser-level blocking restrictions designed to prevent people getting access to URLs of known child abuse material."

    Who comes up with this shit? Browser-level blocking of URLs? I can't see Microsoft, Google and Mozilla going down that road voluntarily.

    I hope "committed to investigate the feasibility..." means "shit guys, we better look like we're doing something to keep that idiot Cameron and his goons off our backs..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think the browser producers will very quickly decide that it would be suicide to cripple their browsers, since there'd no doubt be a non-crippled fork of an open source browser eating their lunch within days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        hmm....

        I don't know about you, but I'd be a lot more comfortable downloading new versions of browsers if I knew that they didn't come with a full list of URLs relating to "known child abuse material"...

        1. Uffish

          Re: hmm....

          My take on it is that the browser will have to ask 'GCHQ' whether a website is permitted - each and every time!

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Yup, wonder if anyones told Cameron that the determined can use wget or similar anyway, bet theyd be delighted to be able to get a list of known content just by downloading Firefox (though to be fair URL hashes wont be that much use).

        Often wonder when the pols talk about darknets, Tor is usually mentioned but are they planning on looking at Freenet too?

        There's a lot of objectionable content there too, but the hosting model means it'd be near impossible for them to take it down.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Streisand effect

      Surely that means that to implement URL blocking, the govt would have to give devs the list of addresses in, thereby making them more public than they already were (especially for open source browsers).

      More to the point, the only way to ensure that the list is valid, would be to check it, which under UK law would be exactly as illegal as creating the sites in the first place (remember that UK law sees no difference between displaying an image and creating one!)

      And forgive my slippery slope argument, but how can you guarantee that the list would be restricted to just that type of site? What's to stop the govt adding anything that they consider subversive to that list?

      What about false positives?

      1. Snorlax

        Re: Streisand effect

        "Surely that means that to implement URL blocking, the govt would have to give devs the list of addresses in, thereby making them more public than they already were (especially for open source browsers)."

        Don't you watch the news? Cameron expects ISPs and software companies to police the internet themselves.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Childcatcher

        Re: Streisand effect

        The obvious approach is to not provide a list to the browser makers but instead to "hardwire" a URL check against a list maintained by the government for each and every URL that the user clicks through to. And to my mind, what there is left of it, that is far more frightening and far more likely. I already have a couple of variant browsers that have that as an option in settings, to protect myself against dodgy URL's.

        Now for that, hell yeah they'll bend over and take it. Look at all that history that Google and the rest of this motley crew can slurp up. All in the name of the children.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why can't they just ask their overseas colleagues in the Five Eyes cartel

    Why can't GCHQ just ask their overseas colleagues in the Five Eyes cartel for details of who's dodgy? They've already got the phone and Internet traffic logged.

    Will the National Crime people be using the same kind of operational procedures and evidential standards as they did with Operation Ore?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/04/ore_errors_covered_up/

  7. Red Bren
    Big Brother

    Retrospective legalisation

    "developing technology capable of scouring the underbelly of the internet"

    Does anyone doubt that they already have this technology, they're just creating a legal fig leaf to justify its existence? As ever, there doesn't appear to be any mention of judicial oversight or any other checks and balances to prevent scope creep or misuse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Retrospective legalisation

      shush! peadophiles right? ok? no questions!

      this is such a big thing, I can almost not remember about that whole UK participating in torture and rendition flights thing that also just came out on the news :)

      No, actually I must just have imagined it... I am pretty sure we have always been at war with the eurasian peadophiles :)

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Retrospective legalisation

        People have been protesting about the rendition flights for years, this is just the first time they've admitted to it:

        http://www.therenditionproject.org.uk/timeline/key-events.html

        ^ a good read purely for the quotes such as:

        "5 December 2005 - Stephen Hadley, advisor to the White House, stated that ‘we do not move people around the world so that they can be tortured’"

        orly?

  8. Mad Mike

    Scope and Definition Creep

    The issue here is not the stated reason, but the potential for scope and definition creep. Protecting children is of course very important and never wrong. However, how long will it be before 'darknet' becomes any technology they don't like? How long until it isn't just child abuse material, but material politicians simply don't like.

    When dealing with politicians and surveillance organisations, it's always what isn't mentioned you need to worry about, rather than what is.......

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Scope and Definition Creep

      look at websense - brought in with the stated purpose of blocking child abuse material. Ran for a while like that, and then was misused by a court that felt as the infrasrructure was there copyright infringement should also be addressed.

      I think the darknet already covers anything the pols dont like. Its already being portrayed as a haven for druggies, pedos and terrorists with no mention of the legitimate uses, so in the minds of the unwashed I suspect that "I use Tor" is probably an admission to some terrible stuff.

  9. thomas k.
    Big Brother

    They're only thinking of the children ...

    who will grow up accepting the police/surveillance state as just part of life, while waiting for all us old farts kicking up a ruckus to die off.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a parallel move, coaching children into uploading indecent images of themselves is to become a criminal offence.

    I see what Cameron means by this proposal & I suspect the only use case he had presented was a 50 year old adult coaching an underage kid to upload indecent images.

    However I suspect this will be used in much the same way that the 'sexting' laws in both the US & UK have been used, to criminalise perfectly normal & 'innocent' relationships between the 'legal border ages' for sexual consent (for example a 15 & 16 year old in a relationship together, or as it stands for making images 17/18). Lets face it in the US, they wanted the kids involved put on their version of the sex offenders register for life & there was a case in sweden/norway??? (that part of Europe) where they tried to prosecute similar aged youngers for distributing 'child porn' which turned out to be 'sexy selfies' sent between gf/bf

    Lets hope this law doesnt end up looking like an ass & getting used for situations such as the above where no criminal intent or abuse got carried out.

    Also is it me or are the current crop of politicos intent on constantly making new laws?? Usually badly written ones as they are so rushed in order to provide the media knee-jerk attention the politicos all crave? What happened to having well written / understood & enforced laws? If I'm mistaken please correct but isnt it better to have 1/2 laws over situation X that are fully enforced (or at least say over 80% enforced), instead of a 100 laws for situation X that arent enforced at all unless the cops happen to decide they want to?

    1. Snorlax

      " Lets face it in the US, they wanted the kids involved put on their version of the sex offenders register for life "

      That blew up in the heavy-handed District Attorney's face after he was found to have breached their Constitutional rights in a number of ways. Also he couldn't offer any proof that the girls had ever produced or distributed the photos - Miller v Skumanick

      http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11579607644740348654

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        thanks for the linky, wondered what happened in the end with that story.

        Have an upvote, its almost christmas after all

  11. fLaMePrOoF

    Sounds great but will inevitable result in even more adolescents and teens being criminalised for 'normal' sexual experimenting and behaviour.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup, always the way...Pedophile is used to label any under age sexual encounter now, yet it means pre-pubescent, i.e. before puberty.... Unfortunately newspaper editors don't read dictionaries, they all use spellcheck instead......

      After puberty, sex is programmed into our DNA(well that is WHY we go through puberty), and no amount of social engineering will remove it, why should we?

      Adolescents need protecting from sick, twisted, adults, BUT adolescents don't need criminalising for exploring their sexuality...

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Its going to work

    stop your negative opinions,

    The great and wonderful david cameroon will single handedly stop all those illegal images been sent over the internets

    Except those hidden inside .Zip folders on FTP servers known only to a few child abusers.

    Anyway.... surely all those people protesting illegally the other day cant publish pictures or news of them protesting because they were doing something illegal........

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Its going to work

      Cameron single handedly doing it? Christ people complain about Skys contention ratio, imagine the on the wire filtering system having a contention of 60000000:1

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The as-yet-unnamed unit" - well, the MoD already has Skynet, so another name needed ...

    Operation Orwell?

    Saviliian Oversight of Dowloads by the public?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paedo Brits

    It's easy.

    All sexual activity, including sending or receiving photography, with or by a young person under the age of 18 should be considered as paedophilia.

    Unless you live in Japan. Or Spain. Or China. Or...

    OK, forget that. Replace 18 with 21 and - in some cases - a requirement that you be married.

    It's the only way to be sure. Don't forget that, as far as Indonesia is concerned, you're a paedophile if you have a look at Page 3.

    Listen up, Britain, you're paedos, and don't forget it.

  15. Otto is a bear.

    Stupid Ideas

    You have to remember that there are probably no policy making legislators in any country that actually know how a computer system works. They know a lot of buzz word, they probably even know what URL stands for, but none actually know what they mean or how they work.

    I doubt any politician even knows what a false positive is. I would also hazard a guess that their IT advisers are no better, as they tend to be young Turks who haven't really ever done proper IT, or old farts, like me, who ran an IT organisation, but never actually knew what it did, (not me by the way).

    If you have a browser based black list of URLs, I can see that list getting very big very quickly as the URLs will constantly change, and probably get longer, as some things already do on the darknet, and will only be available to the initiated. We can probably look forwards to browser updates on a daily basis.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Broad brush

    Presumably there will again be no differentiation between the ages from 0 to 17. This trend to classifying them all as "children" has infantilised the late teenagers - instead of encouraging them to take on more responsibility as they approach adulthood.

    It is not uncommon for 17 year old young women to be in a relationship with guys a few years older than themselves. Easy targets for "we are only enforcing the law" arrests and prosecutions. Presumably there will still be the legal exemption (Northern Ireland only?) for over 16s who are legally married spouses.

    All the vested interests' quoting of huge statistics are in danger of conditioning the public to believing this a widespread, and therefore normal, human behaviour. Like all "issue" campaigners they muddy the waters by trying to boost their statistical evidence with fuzzy categorisations. The term "paedophilia" is supposed to apply only to pre-pubertal children.

    One rarely hears the term "hebephilia" for post-pubertal teens - or "ephebophilia" for late teens. The latter two are more understandable in terms of human sexual attractions. Humans now live much longer than their biology would predict. Our ancestors did, and in many societies still do, regard reproduction as a teenage activity. For death by their thirties was not unusual.

    It is not that long ago in UK history that post-pubertal children were regarded as nubile adults suitable for work and marriage. The matrimonial male was usually several years older - sometimes considerably so. Some western countries, including some USA states, still appear to have low teen ages for sexual consent - and also possibly marriage for girls.

    A modern post-industrial society, whose people have a longer lifespan, needs to keep its youngsters in education for far longer. This has led to the current situation of conflating that need with a puritan morality. If Labour does decrease the voting age to 16 - then the general legal situation for 16 and 17 year olds will become even more confused.

  17. HMB

    Can't be too careful

    I avoided considering becoming a teacher because I'm male and didn't want to expose myself to the risk of accusations. I know a gay guy (in the closet) who is a teacher, who has just been falsely accused by female students and it's guilty until proven innocent. School kids run rings around teachers these days if they want to because they know they can.

    I honestly don't understand why anyone with a penis would consider working with children given modern societies disturbing obsession with paedophilia.

    The safest way of dealing with other people's lost children is to resist the urge to try and help them or feel sorry for them and to pretend they aren't there and never make eye contact. If all else fails, punch them in the face. For god's sake don't take an interest in simply helping them find their parents, unless you've got tits, then you're OK.

    (Satirical posturing aside, please don't actually punch other people's kids in the face, screaming at them and running in the other direction should suffice)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't be too careful

      " For god's sake don't take an interest in simply helping them find their parents, unless you've got tits, then you're OK."

      A friend stopped to ask an isolated crying toddler if he was lost. The next minute she was being threatened with violence by a belligerent father.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Can't be too careful

        I cycle to work everyday and I have ignored a crying kid who fell off their bike for the same reason.

        If they were crying I assume they were breathing - if they had been completely still I might have stopped. It's become one of the rules of modern life in the UK - you don't talk to the police + you cross the road if you see a young child alone.

        Glad I left.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: Can't be too careful

          Hate to say it, but yeah, I also feel incredibly uncomfortable if a strange kid comes up to me - especially if I'm alone.

          As much as that (hypothetical) kid might need help, the risk/benefit ratio of someone making wrong assumptions is just too high nowadays. If I was in a shop I might point them at a nearby staff member and say 'ask them', but the days of 'come with me and lets see if we can find your parents' are long gone.

          The worst thing about it, is it'd be fucking awful if my littlun got lost and no-one helped because they were scared of being wrongly accused of something, and yet there's no way in hell I'd be able to blame them for that.

          Frankly the sick twisted view society is taking where every single person is a threat is putting kids at greater risk IMHO, for every Pedo out there, there must be at least a 100 well meaning people who will no longer help a child in need because of the potential repercussions (let's face it, not like you're going to be given time to explain, is it?).

          If someone is a known risk, we should deal with them, but being oversensitive does more harm than good (not least because a higher volume of wrongful accusations likely means the early accusations against those who _are_ a real risk don't get picked up as easily).

          And whilst I'm on a slight rant, bundling cartoon drawings into the same class as the huge psychological harm done by real physical abuse is one of the most insensitive, sick and demented things I've seen the 'think-of-the-kids' brigade do. If you're concerned it's a slippery slope (rather than a 'safe' route to release), then fine, but making it 'equal' to pictures of real abuse only means that the predator might as well go all out if the punishment is along the same lines, thus feeding the very fucking system they're trying to stop.

          I'm in a weird mood today......

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Can't be too careful

            " the .. view society is taking where every single person is a threat is putting kids at greater risk IMHO, for every Pedo out there, there must be at least a 100 well meaning people who will no longer help a child in need"

            Especially when you think that, statistically and historically speaking, most child abusers have been well known to their victims - family, church, school, etc - rather than the relatively rare cases of abuse by strangers.

            Yes I know, citation needed. Can't think of a good one right now, suggestions welcome.

      2. Mrspudulike
        WTF?

        Re: Can't be too careful

        With you there.

        My wife is a teacher and can't do anything responsible like tell a kid off, give them detention or even give them bad marks as she and most other teachers are constantly worried they might (and do) get falsely accused of kiddy fiddling. its sick, but they do it ALL THE TIME,

        On the flipside, how often have we seen a young child genuinely in need of help, but scared that if we even approach them, we will get done up for trying to do something dodgy?

        The general rule, "approach if you don't have a penis, walk away if you do" is a sad, sad fact of modern life. You can;t tarnish everyone with the same brush. Thankfully, peado's are the rarity and not the norm. Right?

    2. Amorous Cowherder
      Unhappy

      Re: Can't be too careful

      Now try going out in public with a camera! Oh that's a lot of fun, you see kids anywhere near you have to make a big song and dance with

      a) pointing the camera in the opposite direction

      b) putting the lens cap on until children move away or you move away

      c) if using a tripod simply step a foot or two away from it until the kids are gone

      I realise this behaviour only perpetuates the media hysteria but I simply don't need the grief, it's that simple. I like my hobby of taking pictures but I also like my life, my family and my house that lot would be under serious threat if some psychotic, media stirred up nutty parent went ranting to the local Copper that they suspected I was taking pictures of little Johnny or Julie.

      Sad little world we've created for ourselves.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Can't be too careful

        I think you are worrying unnecessarily.

        if you are taking pictures in public, at least in London, you are obliviously a terrorist and will be dealt with by an armed response unit - or possibly an air strike.

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Sad little world we've created for ourselves.

        Well you've only got people to blame like that bloke in Sheffield who disguised himself as a school to entise children into his grasp

        Well it must be true, it was on TV !!!

  18. Seanmon

    Hah!

    When I was a boy, I had to abuse myself!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hah!

      With the regression to puritan strictures then that will become a matter of a public moral panic too. Probably a lobby group funded by mitten and boxing glove manufacturers - and innovators of spiked penis rings.

      Once that moral panic is firmly established in the media and the public's consciousness - then legal restrictions will follow. Enforcement will be by Orwellian surveillance and interpretation of browsing habits. Everyone will be exhorted to "join the fight" and report people they suspect of the heinous crime.

      No doubt some religious group will produce studies with "evidence" for hairy palms and deteriorating eyesight - with their moral authority backed by suitably cherry-picked quotes from Leviticus.

    2. Red Bren
      Joke

      @Seanmon

      And now you're a girl? You must have been gripping too hard...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and once the police are in that dark, dark net

    it would help to round up all other usual suspects. And don't forget horse lovers and such filth...

  20. phuzz Silver badge

    The BBC is already there

    Worth repeating again because it doesn't seem to be widely known. If you run a TOR relay node (not an exit, just a relay) then you will be blocked from BBC iPlayer under their geolocation blocking.

  21. Elmer Phud

    Is there an election coming?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE. Re: Hah!

    Election? Pah. Hitler was elected.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Press buttons, count votes

      Sudden onslaught on civil liberties? No, of course not, we are just protecting the children (and the media companies). Hail Victoria ! Long may the bit remain clenched in the mouths of the rabble.

      And yes, there is an election coming. But lemmings are what they are.

      One day an enlightened and educated voting public might change that, but the fear of a completely splintered democracy has now forced the incumbents to shoot at anything remotely subversive so as to better distract the sheeple. This includes teenage sex, copyright violations or whatever. How amusing it would be if electorates actually began voting for something different. Might even happen this time, Lets see, far right parties that sez torture is OK and immigrants are bad? God help us all......

      Very happy that puberty has been and gone for me, but I am now a little worried for my kids, and not just for the obvious reasons.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RE. Hah!

      "Election? Pah. Hitler was elected."

      ..and he immediately activated the "enabling" law that allowed him to rule by decree. The previously democratic government had created it - as they thought it might be a necessary temporary measure if the civil disturbances became a major problem. Turkeys voting for Christmas.

      It is a relevant lesson. The problem with the surveillance State is not what the current government will do with such broad legal powers - but what it might enable a future one to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        Re: RE. Hah!

        The problem with the surveillance State is not what the current government will do with such broad legal powers - but what it might enable a future one to do.

        Which precisely sums up the problem here in the US. Each side trusts "their Guy" with the powers but not the "other Guy" {Guy has yet to become Gal, dammit). When in opposition, they are opposed to the opposition having those powers but when they come into power, it's all well and good. Perhaps this might explain why each side has only a brief period in power before the electorate decides otherwise. [Or it could all be down to manipulation of the voters, but let's not go there.] Dysfunction is intentional no matter the source of the dysfunction.

        I'd love to shoot them all, and the people that put/keep them in office, but, sadly, that just isn't done. I need a drink.

        1. Red Bren
          Black Helicopters

          Re: RE. Hah!

          >> I'd'love to shoot them all, and the people that put/keep them in office

          You've just admitted you want to destroy America. Step this way, your flight to rendition leaves imminently...

  23. Malcolm Boura

    Undemocratic

    This is at least the second time that this bill has been used to bypass most of the checks and balances of the democratic system. It is extremely difficult to get legislation right, particularly when the issues are emotive, but there has been no consultation and it has been introduced at such a late stage in the parliamentary process that there will be little or no opportunity for anyone to even read it carefully, and certainly no time to suggest improvements. What could possibly go wrong?

  24. veeguy

    We'll be needing to bend you over while we insert a telescope up your arse and twist your toe nails off with a pliers. There may be a spot of waterboarding just before we apply the testicle crushing clamp.

    We will be expecting a nice smile from you during these procedures as we are doing it for the children, you know.

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