A global crackdown on the “darknet’s” pedophile ring has amassed about 900 arrests all over Europe and America. About 350 people were captured in Europe and were included in the investigation of online child abuse.
According to DW, this has been a coordination effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Europol. After they captured Florida-based Steven Chase, the so-called founder of Playpen pedophilia network, both agencies were able to track the remaining members of the community.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Pacifier,” has been a longstanding investigation of the “darknet,” where locations and software anonymity are needed. This is where most illegal cyber activities are hidden, according to Daily Mail.
The Playpen provided “safe” access to the members as they browse and download photos and videos of children sexual abuse. FBI used its own malware to seize and track down the Playpen website and server. They then used the same malware to locate the other Playpen members.
Lead FBI Investigator Dan Aflin said they are not done with “Operation Pacifier.”
“As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, except it’s not a game. Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.”
Europol noted that the Playpen has actually extended their focus on different forms of child sexual abuse to incest and many other “fetishes involving children.” They said the users can access the most recent content in an index page after they log in.
After their crackdown on its members, other organizations all over the world are following suit. Europol said they are crosschecking and analyzing the data they have recovered in Playpen’s servers to help them link any and other possible sites promoting the same content.
“Intelligence packages were prepared and disseminated to law enforcement authorities in countries including Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.”
At present, they have identified at least 259 sexually abused children who have been rescued from the abusers located outside the U.S. There are still ongoing investigations to determine if there are hideouts where more children are isolated.
With the help of Victim Identification Taskforce, held by the Europol, experts all over the world are now looking at different techniques and software that may have been used by the perpetrators.
According to Europol’s European Cybercrime Center Head Steve Wilson, these criminals are “becoming increasingly forensically aware and are actively using the most advanced forms of anonymisation and encryption to avoid detection.”
“Law enforcement needs to be able to use proportionate means to tackle this threat to our children. The internet has no boundaries and does not recognise borders. We need to balance the rights of victims versus the right to privacy. If we operate 19th century legal principles then we are unable to effectively tackle crime at the highest level.”
EU Commissioner for the Security Union Sir Julian King noted that this is a great accomplishment for both the FBI and the Europol since they were able to tackle one of society’s “most heinous of crimes.” However, King added that they still have a lot of work to do since they cannot underestimate the power of the internet.
“The growing sophistication of the use by criminals of the internet cannot be understated and it is truly heartening to see how, by working globally, we are able to strike back and to protect our citizens.”
Europol’s European Cybercrime Center is currently improving its Victim Identification Task Force to easily track victims all over the work. The VIDTF Head Steve Wilson said they will be using the task force at the center of all of their investigations.
“Victims of this crime of sexual abuse and exploitation deserve every chance to be made safe from past and future harm. At Europol we will do everything that we can to support the international community of investigators in ensuring that this is the case.”
[Featured Image by mdurson/iStock]