Child sex abuse streaming on rise
Child sexual abuse streamed live over the internet on services such as Skype has been flagged as an emerging threat by experts.
An increasing number of offenders in 2012 were seen targeting vulnerable families overseas to set up live access to children over webcams in exchange for payment, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) has found.
In its annual threat assessment of child sexual exploitation and abuse, Ceop also warned that there are increased fears of child sexual abuse in Brazil as more visitors head there over the coming years for the World Cup and Olympic Games.
In 2012, Ceop received 8,000 reports of indecent images of children being shared, featuring a two-fold increase in the number of images and videos on previous years to 70,000.
Ceop chief executive Peter Davies said: "Our assessment shows that, sadly, there are still too many children at risk and too many people who would cause them serious harm. We should all practice zero tolerance to child sexual exploitation and abuse."
Live streaming was identified as an emerging method of producing and distributing indecent images last year, the report said. And Ceop warned that this tactic - particularly in the developing world - continues to carry a high risk this year.
Sex offenders are targeting families and children in areas with extreme poverty, rising levels of access to the internet and poor child protection policies, the report said. The centre also raised concerns about the use of the so-called hidden internet - heavily encrypted forums and pages that allow abusers to cover their tracks when accessing indecent images online.
UK daily users connecting to secret or encrypted networks increased by two thirds, one of the largest annual increases globally, the report said, with 20,000 daily UK users of such networks expected by the end of this year, although not all of these will use the hidden internet for criminal means.
The report comes shortly after after five members of a seven-man sadistic paedophile ring found guilty of grooming vulnerable under-age girls were given life sentences at the Old Bailey. Two other defendants were both jailed for seven years.
An NSPCC spokeswoman said: "It is crucial that our efforts to protect children from sexual abuse focus on deterrence and prevention and that our focus is the risk to children, both on and offline."