Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) calls on more in the domain industry to do the right thing
The internet is a wonderful tool that has advanced the way that we communicate, learn and shop in a much more efficient manner. However, criminals have also taken notice of this and are exploiting it in many ways.
Domain names are at the centre of what makes the internet work and are how consumers navigate the web. Criminals continue to use them in many ways including by illegally showing imagery of children being sexually abused.
This problem is occurring across many of the established domains such as .COM and .BIZ as well as other recently created domain name extensions known as “Generic Top Level Domains” (gTLDs).
- In 2016, 57,335 URLs contained child sexual abuse imagery and these were hosted on 2,416 domains worldwide.
Since 2014, many more gTLDs have been released to meet a growing demand for domain names relevant to the web content shown.
Abuse of new gTLDs
In 2015, IWF first saw websites using new gTLDs to share child sexual abuse imagery. Many of the websites were dedicated to illegal imagery and the domains had apparently been registered specifically for this purpose.
Websites using new gTLDs dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery continued to be a rising trend in 2016.
- In 2015, we took action against 436 URLs on 117 websites using new gTLDs.
- In 2016, we took action against 1,559 URLs on 272 websites using new gTLDs – an increase of 258% from the year before.
- Of these 272 websites, 226 were websites dedicated to distributing child sexual abuse content.
Preventing gTLDs from being abused
IWF has partnered with leading registries to help prevent the use of gTLDs being used to show children being sexually abused. Their Domain Alerts help their Members in the domain registration sector to prevent abuse of their services by criminals attempting to use domains for websites dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery.
Several registries and registrars are members of IWF, including Rightside, Nominet and Afilias.
Rightside helping develop new standards for all registries
Rightside Registry, whose head office is based in Kirkland, Washington, USA, became an IWF Member in September 2015.
As a new registry operator, the company is responsible for 40 gTLDs, including .VIDEO, .LIVE and .GAMES, with over 600k domains currently in circulation.
People who want to register a Rightside domain extension, can use one of over 140 registrars worldwide. Registrars are separate companies who are authorised to distribute domains on behalf of the various registries, dealing directly with the consumers.
Rightside is also the registry operator for the .NINJA TLD. As a member of the IWF, last year Rightside received Domain Alerts relating to two .NINJA domains. These domain names were found to be associated with 138 items of content depicting child sexual abuse material.
Rightside Abuse Team’s top priority is to ensure that all of its domains remain trusted and secure and their partnership with the IWF is integral to that ethos.
Rightside considers the IWF as a trusted third party notifier; this simply means that given the IWF’s unique mandate from the UK authorities, to actively seek and take action on criminal online content worldwide, any Domain Alert report received from the IWF, is taken at face value. Rightside’s Abuse Team can proceed, confident in the knowledge that the IWF’s trained analysts, have investigated, evidenced, and reported all findings to the relevant law enforcement authorities.
Rightside has implemented rapid internal processes for best managing IWF Domain Alerts. They are especially sensitive to the possibility of hacked websites, or situations where their domains are being used by legitimate businesses who may have thousands of users, with any one of these users being potentially responsible for the illegal content. As a registry, Rightside wants to ensure their actions don’t cause further harm, working quickly and decisively to identify the best way to remove illegal content, with the least impact to those not responsible.
Alan Woods, Rightside’s Registry Compliance Manager, said: “We believe that the IWF partnership provides an important protection, not only for all of Rightside’s registrants, and the general internet user, but protects the well-being of Rightside’s own Abuse Team in processing such reports.
“Rightside, as one of the first new gTLD registries to partner with the IWF, sees the benefit of membership in establishing gTLD best practices to protect all web users worldwide from malicious actors. Working with the IWF has been a great partnership in notifying us immediately when a site, using one of our domains, is being abused so we can take action to disable the domain in question."
Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, said: “Criminals will attempt to abuse new technologies for their own gain – in this case it’s using new domain names.
“As a Member of IWF, and the registry for .NINJA, we’ve seen first-hand how Rightside shares our zero-tolerance of child sexual abuse material. We appreciate their commitment and hope the rest of the industry steps up to ensure that criminals distributing child sexual abuse material can find no refuge in gTLDs, only swift and immediate action to stamp out these channels.”
The IWF releases its Annual Report 2016 on 3 April 2017 exclusively online. It will be found here: https://annualreport.iwf.org.uk It shows the latest global trends and analysis of child sexual abuse content for 2016.
To join IWF go to https://www.iwf.org.uk/become-a-member/join-us
Notes to editors:
Rightside Registry: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.