Internet watchdog Hotline.ie revealed the first instance of child porn being hosted on a site here had occurred due to “lax security” regarding passwords on the site, which allowed hackers to gain entry and open up credit card payment options for those seeking to access the material.
Gardaí investigating the case are satisfied the website owner knew nothing of the security breach, thought to have been carried out by hackers in a former Soviet state. Within five hours of the discovery the content had been removed.
Hotline.ie revealed details of the case as it published its annual report for 2009. There was a rise in the number of reports from members of the public regarding child porn and other illegal websites last year, but a significant fall in the number of sites that actually contained child pornography.
Statistics included in the latest annual report by internet watchdog Hotline.ie showed that 2,117 reports were received last year, of which 1,571 involved alleged child pornography.
That represents an increase on the comparable figures for 2008 of 1,966 reports, and 1,275 found to have been actionable.
However, just 284 reports were assessed as “probably illegal”, of which 266 were linked to child pornography – down from a comparable figure of 443 in 2008.
More than half the public reports last year, 1,181 in total, were found not to be illegal, while 13% were illegal.
However, 26% of all queries could not be processed, either because there was insufficient information to allow access to the site, it was not accessible, had already been removed or was simply not found. A further 5% of reports were outside Hotline.ie’s remit.
While there was an increase in reports last year, there had been a 25% fall in reports in the previous year and overall the number of reports has continued to decline. The number of reports made in the last quarter of 2009 was the lowest since 2003.
The illegal sites are based in a range of countries around the world, but overwhelmingly the United States. However, there was a marked fall in the number of websites registered in Russia between 2007 and 2008, although the number of sites based in Canada increased in the same period.
In 2008 there was the first case of child pornography being hosted in Ireland, but yesterday’s report charts a big decline over two years, from 2007 to 2009, in proven illegal child pornography encountered and reported by Irish internet users.
Many of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Ireland help fund the Hotline.ie service, alongside other watchdogs such as INHOPE (International Association of Internet Hotlines), which works with 36 hotlines in other countries.
Hotline.ie general manager Paul Durrant urged people to use an ISPAI (Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland) member’s service.
Under Hotline.ie’s terms of operation it is forbidden from proactive searching, meaning it is dependent on reports from the public so it can police sites and act on illegal content.