Four incidents of online child abuse imagery hosted in Ireland were documented in 2012 — more than all such cases since monitoring began 14 years ago.
In three of the cases, criminals used cloud computing, a technology which allows people to use Irish- based servers but control them from another country.
Hotline.ie, set up by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland, said cloud computing was creating a “more complex” situation for watchdogs and law enforcement.
In its 2012 annual report, Hotline.ie said it received 2,950 reports of suspected illegal activity online. Some 2,357 related to child pornography; 24 concerned child grooming; 93 related to financial scams; and 28 concerned racism.
The number of reports was 20% higher than in 2011. The report said the vast majority of these were not illegal, with most being adult pornography.
In all, 116 reports were considered to contain illegal content: 96 contained child abuse imagery; five were drugs related; and 15 were financial scams with an Irish connection. Of the child pornography sites, most were based in the US (52), with 10 each based in Vietnam and Russia.
All the foreign cases were reported by Hotline.ie to foreign equivalent agencies though INHOPE, an umbrella organisation covering 37 countries.
The report said 90% of these sites are taken down within three days. The remaining cases were forwarded to Interpol.
The report said four cases were located in Ireland, “the largest ever in one year”.
“Since the establishment of Hotline.ie in 1999, there have previously been only three verified reports of content hosted in Ireland.”
Cloud computing was involved in three of the cases, involving a server based here but operated from the US.
Launching the report, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said this development was “regrettable” and showed that “new fronts are opening as we continue to fight the scourge of internet abuse”.
Reports of child abuse imagery has fallen considerably over the years. The report expressed concern this was not because there was less material online, but because paedophiles were using it in ways to avoid the eyes of general web users.
Elsewhere, Hotline.ie said the most common file downloaded from its site was on cyberbullying.
It said there was a massive jump in visits to its site since October, which may be related to media coverage of the death of a schoolgirl, allegedly because of cyberbullying.