Sometime in October 2019, FBI agents took down the world’s largest dark web child abuse material marketplace.
The now-defunct website, called “Welcome to Video”, held an excess of 200, 000 video materials of about 8 terabytes of data involving footages of sex acts committed against children, toddlers, and infants. The English-language platform was reported to have processed about 7,300 Bitcoin transactions running into thousands of dollars.
As the war against dark web-supported child abuse rages on, Europol has announced the success of an operation that targeted a child sex abuser who operated on darknet websites.
The operation was executed as a joint effort between the Spanish National Police, the Australian Queensland Police, and a contingent of Europol cybercrime operatives.
According to a press release by Europol, the suspect is alleged to have been involved in the production of child sex abuse videos, actions that would allow him access to darknet platforms and forums that require new entrants to provide new material contributions, in order to be granted site access. As it turns out, the practice of darknet platforms requiring new members to contribute new materials for site access has become a common phenomenon.
Using Operational Analysis to Hunt Down the Suspect
An important aspect of the operation was to establish a first lead to the suspect. Authorities came across a child abuse footage involving an underage boy in Belgium. Law enforcement agents succeeded in analyzing another video that was reported to have been recorded as far back as the year 2015.
It is through a comprehensive analysis of the images and video in the graphic material that led Spanish law enforcement to locate the suspect who had featured in the analyzed material – which showed the suspect abusing a child who was not more than five years of age.
In addition, according to details of the investigation, authorities detected the textual characteristics of the message involved in publishing the video. A close look into the message showed that the words and phrases used were Spanish in origin.
This discovery led investigators to employ a mix operation analysis technique, open-source enquiries and cross-checking information to unravel a trail into the suspect’s location. According to findings of the investigation, Europol cybercrime experts discovered the suspect’s registered presence in a host of dark web sites created for the consumption of child sex abuse materials.
Further, it was discovered that the suspect used a social media network to communicate with an individual whose surname matched the name that was used in titling the explicit video.
An Operation Amid the COVID-19 Lockdown
The scope of the investigation led investigators to the suspect’s location in Barcelona, Spain.
Officers from the Madrid-based Spanish National Police Central High-Tech Crime Unit moved to Barcelona to apprehend the suspect. However, considering that Spain has been on lockdown owing to the current coronavirus international crisis, the team of cybercrime experts had to change tactic. The law enforcement agents in Barcelona sought remote assistance from other experts in Madrid as the investigation edged towards undisputable success.
The probe lifted the lid on details regarding how the suspect operated using several email addresses and employing a host of darknet access points to commit the crime.
The police intimated on the expectation that the seized material would go a long way in aiding them establish a trail on additional dark web sites that propagate crimes involving sexual abuse including the identification and location of users, site operators, and even the purchasers of child sex abuse materials.
Certainly, the arrest of this Spanish individual provided a definite link to a chain that would potentially lead to the location and arrest of more darknet criminals.