IWF's Tech Officer wins top IT award

Published:  Thu 26 Jan 2017

Harriet Lester, Internet Watch Foundation’s (IWF) Technical Projects Officer, has been named Rising Star of the Year at the world’s largest technology diversity event – the Women in IT Awards.  The award, which honours female achievements in the tech industry, was presented at a gala event in London, on Wednesday, January 25.   

See the full winners list here

Harriet Lester, IWF Technical Project Officer, says: “I’m thrilled to have been honoured in this way. The Women in IT Awards are key to tackling gender inequalities in the industry. It was a huge honour to meet female IT role models and to celebrate their achievements. I believe that being named Rising Star of the Year isn’t just a personal achievement – it also shows that the great work of the IWF in searching for and removing images and videos of child sexual abuse from the internet is being recognised as vital in today’s society.”

Harriet joined the IWF as an Internet Content Analyst in early 2014 and worked tirelessly to make the internet a safer place for children and adults. As an analyst, she assessed reports made to the Hotline and removed images and videos of child sexual abuse first hand. She was promoted to Technical Research Assistant in 2014, and Technical Projects Officer in 2015.

Since then, Harriet has taken on a number of high profile pieces of work. She worked, for instance, on the development of the award-winning IWF Image Hash List.

The Hash List is an innovative piece of technology which has the potential of eliminating all known child sexual abuse imagery for good. Thanks to the list, IWF analysts can give child sexual abuse images a unique digital fingerprint, the DNA of a photograph. The list of hashes can then be used by tech companies to stop the upload, hosting and sharing of these images. The IWF Hash List is already being used by tech giants Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter and Google.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, says: “Harriet’s work is vital to the IWF and our goal of stopping child sexual abuse content on the internet. Her involvement in implementing reporting portals for countries in need was exceptional. Thanks to her unbelievable talent and endurance, 13 UK Overseas Territories now have a safe place to report child sexual abuse imagery. She’s an inspiration to all women in the tech world.”

On behalf of the IWF and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Harriet travelled to 13 British Territories in 2016 to set them up with an online portal to report child sexual abuse imagery. The reporting portals are customised websites with a reporting button which feeds directly to the IWF analysts in Cambridge. They then assess these reports and remove illicit content. The portals were launched in June 2016.

Susan Crown, Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Head of Policy and Delivery, says: “Harriet has been inspirational. She has given people in the British Overseas Territories the ability to report child abuse images online. She worked tirelessly to bring this powerful tool to remote places and to create a conversation about this emotive issue. Harriet is a leader and a wonderfully engaging speaker. She has made a real difference to the Territories by creating this project and children will be safer globally because of her work.''

Harriet grew up in Bedford. She went to Dame Alice Harpur School where she discovered her passion for technology and science.



Notes to editors:

Contact: Emma Hardy, IWF Director of External Relations +44 (0) 1223 203030 or +44 (0) 7929 553679.

What we do:

We make the internet a safer place. We help victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse. We search for child sexual abuse images and videos and offer a place for the public to report them anonymously. We then have them removed. We’re a not for profit organisation and are supported by the global internet industry and the European Commission.


For more information please visit www.iwf.org.uk.

The IWF is part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, working with Childnet International and the South West Grid for Learning to promote the safe and responsible use of technology.


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