Forty one years ago this week, Adam John Walsh was abducted from a Florida department store and murdered at just six years old.
As an outcome of their son’s death, in 1984 John and Revé Walsh founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), a private, non-profit organization dedicated to serving as the national resource center for information about missing and exploited children. In 1998, when NCMEC started to receive increased complaints of online exploitation of children, the CyberTipline was created, allowing members of the public and ESPs (electronic service providers) to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials (CSAM). US-based ESPs are required by Federal law to report instances of apparent child pornography on their systems. Likewise, these providers also receive notices from NCMEC about suspected CSAM on their servers. NCMEC reports that the CyberTipline has received over 82 million reports, that their Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed over 322 million images and videos, and that over 19,100 victims of abuse and exploitation over the internet have been identified by law enforcement.
What does a typical CSAM case look like? NCMEC shares a case in which an ESP reported the transmission of apparent child pornography material on their social media site. Upon further investigation, the user appeared to have been enticing multiple children across multiple platforms. A regional ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force was engaged, who then reported the activity to the local police department. Thanks to the diligent work of law enforcement, 15 victims, including a 2-year-old girl, were rescued.
It takes a number of agencies and organizations and tools to track down these suspects. OpenTextTM EnCaseTM Forensic and OpenTextTM Tableau Forensic are two tools used by law enforcement and ICAC units around the world to help find, analyze and report on evidence of these suspected crimes. Sadly, this kind of activity happens more often than any of us want to know. The Southern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE), an EnCase Forensic user, recently reported that they receive 1,300-1,400 complaints a year in their office alone, and that they could be at search warrants every single day and never put a dent in it. That’s why tools that help investigators be more efficient and quickly find reliable evidence is so critical. The Alberta ICE unit reports that OpenText EnCase Forensic has helped them save 80% of their normal workload.
According to NCMEC, “the disturbing reality is that the internet platforms we use every day to connect with each other and share information, including social media, online gaming, and e-mail, are now being used to disseminate and collect CSAM. CSAM can be found in virtually any online realm.” Think about all of the applications a suspected offender has access to – Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Kik and more. Predators lurk on those applications and investigators use tools like EnCase Forensic and Tableau Forensic to “weed them out” from legitimate users. Alberta ICE reports that they recently had a suspect using BlueStacks, a cell phone emulator, and the only tool they had that could read the evidence on that app was EnCase Forensic.
OpenText provides law enforcement, government agencies and organizations such as NCMEC with the information advantage needed to identify and prosecute offenders against children. I am proud to be part of the community that is focused on protecting the world’s children.
Adam Walsh’s legacy has touched the lives of countless children through the work done by NCMEC and their partners. As we pause to remember Adam, may we all support the work of NCMEC and Adam’s parents’ wishes to turn tragedy into hope by helping as many families as possible.