Thu04262018

LAST_UPDATEThu, 26 Apr 2018 9pm

Malaysia No. 1 Consumer Of Online Child Porn In Southeast Asia ─ Are Your Children Safe?

While you are reading this, there is a huge possibility that a paedophile may be looking at photographs and videos of your child on your social media account right now, or even coercing them in a chatroom.

In fact, the hair-raising scenario is not far-fetched, as it was recently reported that Malaysia tops in Southeast Asia for online child pornography, with close to 20,000 IP addresses found uploading and downloading child pornography materials. Also, over 60 per cent of children were found to spend time in online chatrooms on a daily basis.

Clearly, this alarming statistic is likely due to rapid digital advancements taking over our lives – which makes us wonder are we doing enough to ensure that innocent children don’t fall prey to digital predators that lurk behind the screen?

Digital Predators Are Constantly Abusing The Internet

Pic: The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CyberSecurity Malaysia, Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul WahabPic: The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CyberSecurity Malaysia, Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul WahabThe Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) has officially launched the anti-child sexual crimes unit, the Malaysian Internet Crime Against Children Investigations Unit (MICAC) on February 9 after beginning operations in 2014.

While MICAC is aimed at combating the spread of sexually explicit contents involving children via the internet, the unit simultaneously works with foreign law enforcement agencies for information sharing and other digital smart partners to warn the public on the dangers that lurk in the cyberspace.

While the PDRM have assured their system to hunt down sexual predators is in place, speaking with CyberSecurity Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab, he stressed the disgraceful ranking is yet another wake-up call for society to be more cautious of the digital trends surrounding the younger online users.

“With more than 24 million internet users in Malaysia, most children aged between 10 and 12 years old already have a personal social media account,” he pointed out.

“So it is worrying to know that criminal activities can easily be committed through the distribution and possession of illegal content, at the expense of these younglings.”

As child pornography has long plagued our nation, Amirudin conveyed that CyberSecurity Malaysia remains committed to tackle the issue by urging parents to be more vigilant in monitoring their children’s internet usage and behaviour.

And aside from harnessing the awareness amongst children on the indecent acts that could bring them shame or trouble, the CEO relayed that concerned Malaysians can similarly report the direct URL link of offensive websites to Cyber999.

“Additionally, we have also developed the CyberSAFE programme as a means to educate the public whilst creating awareness of the positive internet and technology usage,” he shared.

But aside from advocating for education and awareness as well as crafting nation-level initiatives to counter child pornography, CyberSecurity Malaysia also lends a hand to the PDRM in apprehending suspected perpetrators.

Citing the video of a nine-year-old girl being molested at a funfair as an example, Amirudin explained that a facial identification of the suspect – depicted in the video – was used to unearth his identity.

“However, it is the PDRM who will conduct further investigation and subsequently arresting the perpetrator,” he conveyed.

“Upon sharing the identity with the PDRM, the authorities will then locate the whereabouts of the suspect by following the trail of information, which were obtained from online and offline witnesses.”

While the perpetrator has been apprehended, Amirudin noted that the advancement of technology has unfortunately benefitted the digital predators in covering their tracks – enabling them to execute an almost perfect crime.

“Technology has made anonymous communication easily accessible and now appear as a fun game to these digital predators as they are able to allure netizens without revealing their identity or true intentions,” he opined.

“One of the platforms used by digital predators to spread and share the act of crime undetected is called, The Onion Router (TOR), which is an open-source software programme that allows users to protect their privacy and security against a common form of Internet surveillance known as traffic analysis.”

Although browsing the internet via TOR and hiding internet protocol (IP) addresses are not illegal, Amirudin underlined that majority users turn to TOR specifically for anonymity to conduct their illegal activities.

“These manipulative and persistent child sex offenders take advantage of the internet and online tools to access, lure potential victims, produce child sexual abuse materials, upload and disseminate them,” he lamented.

“While it is important to build children's awareness of the risks and their resilience towards them, it is equally important to instil a digital society that practices good online behaviour while educating on the possible threats that exists.”

Why Hacking The Deep Web Is A Tricky Situation

We then queried an IT specialist Syaza Sobri, on best methods to stop digital predators in their tracks – and whether it is possible to trace their IP addresses, as the British government successfully sanctioned an investigation that led to the shocking revelation of MARA scholar Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin’s sick paedophilia.

Though the 29-year-old opined that various ministries and departments are able to interrogate abusers like Fitri, “The limitation relies in terms of proximity, as the local government has jurisdiction over local IP addresses, but not IP addresses that originate overseas.”

Asked if it was possible for Malaysia to hack into the deep web and closed chat groups to identify these perpetrators, the woman who works at the central bank conveyed that it is possible, however illegal.

“Unless it is sanctioned by the government, a ‘hacker’ requires a warrant issued by the court to trace an individual’s IP address or investigate chatting platforms.

“Without a government sanction or a warrant, then it is regarded as an invasion of privacy, which is illegal in Malaysia,” she stressed.

Syaza admits that the emergence of the ‘hidden internet’ has made it slightly challenging for authorities and hackers to hunt down digital paedophiles – because a specific router bounces users’ requests for data around a global network of computers at random – subsequently disguising their origin.

To make matters worse, the hidden internet is now the pivotal source for ‘first generation’ indecent images of children, before it is transmitted to the open internet and file sharing networks.

“It takes a bloody genius hacker to hack into these dark webs or chat groups and forums, gain sole access and inject a ‘virus’ that will trace the website’s visitors actual IP address,” she highlighted.

“In countries such as Australia and United States, this action would permit the authorities to arrest the digital predators and have them locked up behind bars – provided they produce substantial evident and the court grants them with a warrant of arrest.

“In the event the judge disagrees with the modus operandi, then their (illegal) snooping will be to no avail.”

With such a significantly thin line between invasion of privacy and catching the criminals, Syaza opined that the Malaysian government and authorities are excessively careful of their methods for good reason.

“The local authorities not only want to identify these digital predators, but they want to ensure that they are able to jail them too.

“So hence, why they are careful of their methods as in the event that the court rules in the perpetrators’ favour – in other words, their investigative way does not fly – it will give these animals an opportunity to flee,” she stated.

Parents Advised To Self-Regulate Internet Content

Pic: Puan Eneng Faridah Iskandar, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) advocacy and outreach senior directorPic: Puan Eneng Faridah Iskandar, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) advocacy and outreach senior directorMalaysian Digest then caught up with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) advocacy and outreach senior director Eneng Faridah Iskandar, who revealed they had received the highest number of reports last year with regards to child pornography.

“However these reports are related to abusive contents involving children, which could either be child pornography; children’s photos are being used without their parents’ consent (invasion of privacy); and grooming images,” she shared, adding that they received 20 reports thus far.

MCMC assured that once a report is filed, investigations will take place, with the gathered information being shared to the PDRM for further investigation.

She further emphasised that MCMC has the power to block obscene websites and remove or report offensive content.

“The commission has blocked 155 child pornographic websites in 2017,” she said while lamenting that the figure barely scratched the surface.

“Child pornography touches on a host of different areas, and MCMC’s jurisdictions are only derived from what is stipulated under the Communication and Multimedia Act,” she explained on MCMC’s jurisdiction in addressing complaints.

“There are only a few sections, within the Act, that touches on online content. One of it is Section 233, which stresses on the transmission and requesting communication of content that are obscene, menacing, indecent, offensive and false in character.

“The penalties under Section 233 are one year imprisonment and RM50,000 fine.”

Eneng further highlighted that there are many elements to the issue of child pornography, and the biggest concerns are – who did this to the child; who recorded and uploaded it online; who downloaded these contents and for what purpose (commercial or paedophilic).

“Hence, MCMC is immensely worried of people who are not well-versed on the power of the internet, what more the dangers that may be lurking,” she conveyed and shared that the commission has worked with eight Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – Telekom Malaysia (TM), Celcom, Maxis, Digi, U-Mobile, TuneTalk, Time and Altel – to develop a parental control software, which gives parents the facilities to control their internet usage.

“The software is not free as it is subscription based (with the respective ISPs). But surely the imposed fee is worth it – especially to ensure our children’s safety whilst on the internet,” she said, adding that to date they roughly have 249,000 subscribers.

In addition to reminding parents who tend to overexpose their children online to safeguard them especially on social media platforms, she also shared a few tips to ensure a safer internet usage:

Prepared by Malaysian DigestPrepared by Malaysian Digest

“The case involving Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin and Richard Huckle jolted Malaysians' awake that such crimes against children are happening right under our noses.

“Now that Malaysians are more sensitive of child sexual abuse, the recommended long-term solution would be awareness, education, proper tool usage and self-regulation,” she reminded.

- Malaysian Digest