- Criminal gangs are using live video-streaming sites to show child rape
- They charge paedophiles Bitcoins to view the footage, Europol warned
- Currency is difficult to trace, protecting the identity of those watching
- Live streams also leave little to no permanent record of rape taking place
- Details emerged as part of Europol’s special report on the commercial sexual exploitation of children online
Hi-tech criminals are increasingly selling live streams of child rape over legitimate chat sites and apps such as Skype for hard-to-trace virtual currencies like Bitcoin, Europol has warned.
‘Criminals that sexually exploit children online are becoming more entrepreneurial with technological developments and are profiting financially,’ Europe’s policing agency said in a special report released today on the commercial sexual exploitation of children online.
Compiled by Europol’s EC3 cybercrime centre, together with Eurojust, non-governmental organisations and credit card and online giants such as Google and Microsoft, the report paints a disturbing picture of rising online child abuse.
The sale of child abuse live streams over legitimate chat sites or video chat apps is much harder to trace than when the abuse is sold from a website.
‘The research shows that the live streaming of abuse for payment is no longer an emerging trend but an established reality,’ the report said.
Criminal gangs recruit disadvantaged children or their own children for the abuse.
‘These persons offer homeless children or children from their own family for the sexual abuse by individuals, live in front of a camera, in the European Union or developing countries, for financial gain,’ the report said.
Filippino police recently busted a paedophile ring that streamed live rape involving children as young as six, the report said.
Cryptocurrency: Hi-tech criminals are increasingly selling live streams of child rape over legitimate chat sites and apps such as Skype for hard-to-trace virtual currencies like Bitcoin
Police rescued 15 victims aged between six and 15, and arrested 29 people including gang members and people who allegedly paid to watch the abuse in 13 countries.
Over 700 other suspected purchasers of online child abuse filmed in the Philippines have been identified, Europol said.
Like using legitimate, mainstream chat sites to broadcast the abuse, payment using virtual currencies such as Bitcoin also makes the criminals harder to trace than if they were taking credit card payments.
Last year investigators for the first time came across child abuse being sold exclusively for Bitcoins, the report said.
Police and the private sector should monitor the Internet for the growth of alternative forms of payment ‘as a potential consequence of further migration from traditional payment systems to a new, largely unregulated digital economy,’ Europol said.
BITCOINS: WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE WEB’S CRYPTOCURRENCY
Bitcoin operates as a two-way currency which can be exchanged for dollars, and vice versa.
The notion behind it is to facilitate cheap, anonymous transactions policed by its community of users and is built around trust rather than relying on institutions like governments or banks.
Bitcoin’s status as a digital currency is debatable. It is entirely a digital product but is not regulated and it has a limit of 21million, which is predicted to last until 2140.
The finite nature of Bitcoins means it performs more like a commodity, such as gold.
Bitcoin first emerged in 2008 and launched as a network in 2009.
It was created by a hacker whose identity is a mystery, but is known as Satoshi Nakamoto.
This is thought to be a pseudonym for the person or group who created it.
Each Bitcoin is a piece of computer code that has been generated through very slow computer processing, also known as ‘mining’.
Users choose a virtual wallet from one of the various providers which enables them to receive, give and trade coins from other users.
Bitcoin’s can be bought from specialist online currency exchanges and online marketplaces such as eBay.