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Escalating CSAM Content and Growing Online Risks to Children

Posted by ADF Solutions on November 10, 2023
ADF Solutions

A recent report from Thorn, a technology nonprofit dedicated to defending children from sexual abuse, highlights the troubling emergence of certain online threats to children on the rise. According to the "Emerging Online Trends in Child Sexual Abuse 2023" report, minors are increasingly involved in the sharing of explicit content, either consensually or coercively, and report heightened interactions with adults online. 

These trends are in alignment with what other child safety organizations, like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), are also reporting. ADF Solutions stands firm in its aim to stop child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and give investigators the digital forensic tools they need to quickly collect, analyze, and report on these cases.

The Emerging Online Trends report paints a grim picture of the online landscape concerning CSAM. One of the most concerning findings is the rise in minors taking and sharing explicitResponse Article- New Report Child Sexual Abuse Content and Online Risks to Children on the Rise images of themselves. This activity, whether consensual or coerced, poses significant dangers to the well-being of children.

Moreover, the report reveals an alarming increase in risky online interactions between minors and adults. As the digital world continues to evolve, predators are adapting to exploit these spaces, endangering children and disseminating harmful content. This troubling trend is not confined to the dark corners of the web but has infiltrated mainstream platforms used by millions.

ADF Solutions, founded in 2005 is a global cyber forensics leader providing the best digital forensics and field triage tools. ADF's specialized tools have proven instrumental in rapidly and effectively analyzing digital devices, identifying illicit materials, and supporting the efforts to combat CSAM and related criminal activities. In this blog post, we'll explore the pivotal role that digital forensics, particularly the solutions provided by ADF, plays in the investigation of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). 

The Importance of Digital Forensics 

Digital forensics has been incorporated into law enforcement investigations for approximately 39 years. Since then research in the field has assisted in incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into digital forensic software. Without the ability to analyze digital devices, an overwhelming amount of evidence would be overlooked. Modern investigations now include the collection and analysis of digital evidence collected from mobile devices, computers, storage devices, and more. When it comes to child sexual abuse content, digital forensic software is the go-to tool used to obtain evidence because it is perpetuated in the digital realm. 

Although investigators have been able to help victims with the help of forensic tools they still face challenges.

  • Unmoderated access to CSAM online. It is easy to access, download, and exploit children[1]

  • Emerging cyber threats such as apps, websites, social networks, live streaming services, and technologies that can be used for sexual solicitation and exploitation [1]. Investigators must allocate resources to detect new avenues and platforms that are online threats to children.

  • The amount of digital evidence and devices involved in investigations continues to grow which requires more resources than many law enforcement agencies can handle.

  • The use of technology that can mask network location has become more commonly available[1].

The report generated by Thorn gives an alarming insight into online predation trends and our need to leverage technology to combat the issue successfully. Digital forensic software plays a major role in detecting CSAM, particularly the use of hash values. 

ADF agrees that hashing and matching is an important feature in digital forensic software. Comparing hashed content against existing hash lists of known CSAM allows investigators to identify illicit content. We may see a trend in using digital forensics to solve more cases simply because it is the only tool that can access this type of evidence.

ADF Solutions' Software:

ADF’s Solutions software gives investigators the power to conduct rapid and thorough CSAM investigations. 

  • ADF Partner: Suspect Technologies brings an additional power of analysis to ADF's suite of triage and digital forensic software to support face recognition for age detection which is used to help speed child exploitation investigations.

  • ADF Partner:  Project VIC is a coalition of law enforcement and private sector partners transforming the approach to child exploitation investigations.Using ADF software, media files collected either on-site or in the lab from suspect computers, storage devices, drive images, etc., can be easily exported into a Project VIC compatible (VICS) output and imported as JSON into the Griffeye Analyze platform - functionality that further helps law enforcement agencies identify and rescue children from sexual abuse.

  • Customize your scans with your hash lists, Project Vic / CAID, and bring in your unique keywords to zero in on what you are looking for. 

ADF’s tools such as the Digital Evidence Investigator PRO use this hashing technology to assist investigators in identifying CSAM. Using VICS and CAID hashset data, law enforcement agents are empowered to more rapidly and effectively search for child exploitation material, and perform crime scene investigations starting on-scene. 

The Advantages of ADF Solutions:

ADF’s DEI PRO collects, analyzes, and reports on evidence from a variety of devices…

  • iOS and Android mobile devices

  • MAC, Linux, and Windows computer systems.

  • External drives

  • Drive images

  • Other media storage (USB flash drives, memory cards, etc)

DEI PRO collects digital evidence in cybercrime and presents it in a timeline view to tie the user to files and artifacts creating a digital evidence collection to help solve investigations and reduce forensic backlogs. When it comes to collecting and analyzing digital evidence it is important to have forensic tools that allow for rapid investigation from start to finish. This is how DEI PRO and other ADF products reduce backlogs. In an era where our lives revolve around technology and CSAM can be perpetuated quickly investigators require the ability to act fast. 

Features of ADF’s DEI PRO that highlight its ability to conduct a rapid CSAM investigation

  • Advanced logical acquisition of iOS/Android data up to 4GB per minute

  • Live Preview Mode - View phone content immediately without waiting for a backup or imaging to finish

  • Auto-scroll when taking screenshots of long pages on Android

  • Screen Recording for Android and iOS Devices (up to Android 14 and iOS 17) with PreCapture and organize screenshots of connected mobile devices while navigating with automatic processing to extract and index text for search, annotation, and reporting.

ADF Solutions’ digital forensic software puts victims first. They give investigators the right equipment to collect evidence rapidly and accurately, maintaining a chain of custody to ensure justice is brought to victims and their families. 

Alternative Perspectives: Shared Responsibility in Combatting CSAM 

Some may believe that the responsibility of controlling CSAM belongs in the hands of tech(second image) Response Article- New Report Child Sexual Abuse Content and Online Risks to Children on the Rise companies and organizations, perhaps even in the hands of those creating the platforms and networks where CSAM is perpetuated. The more hash lists that are shared the more illicit content that can be identified ultimately increasing internet safety for kids.

However, it is equally important for law enforcement agencies and governments to be prepared with the forensic tools and also build and share CSAM databases. Everyone must cooperate and responsibility cannot fall on any specific party. When investigators are equipped with digital forensic software they can investigate cases that may fall through a company's cracks.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cybertip Line has received over 82 million reports, the Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed over 322 million images/videos, and over 19,100 victims have been identified by law enforcement[2]. This last statistic shows the importance of law enforcement’s fight against CSAM and why digital forensic software with hashing capabilities is needed everywhere. 

Key Takeaways: Empowering Digital Forensics and Collaborative Responsibility 

The response to the Thorn report reinforces the role of digital forensic software, particularly emphasizing the use of hash values in identifying illicit content. ADF Solutions' suite of software empowers investigators by offering rapid and comprehensive solutions for CSAM investigations. Partnering with entities like Suspect Technologies and Project VIC further enhances their capabilities, enabling the quick identification and rescue of victims.

ADF's tools, like DEI PRO, speed up investigations by gathering, analyzing, and showing evidence from different devices. The software's timeline view and backlog reduction are important for fast and accurate digital investigations.

While some argue that the responsibility of controlling CSAM should primarily rest with tech companies, the shared responsibility among law enforcement agencies, governments, and technology entities is paramount. 

ADF Solutions' digital forensic software places the focus on the victims, ensuring that evidence is collected rapidly and accurately to bring justice to those affected and their families. The collaborative effort among all stakeholders is crucial to creating a safer online environment for the most vulnerable in our society.

Learn More on How Digital Forensics Assists with CSAM 

Topics: Crimes Against Children, ADF Authorized Partner, Child Exploitation, DEI PRO, CSAM, Screen Shots

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