Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has successfully supported efforts to identify several victims of child sexual abuse through its third Victim Identification Task Force (VIDTF). The VIDTF 3 hosted at Europol headquarters from 28 January to 10 February saw experts from around the world identifying victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation using advanced techniques, software and their knowledge and expertise. As a result, victims of this damaging crime have been located living in several countries in the EU and beyond. Law enforcement authorities in those countries are currently working to finalise the identification of the children and save them from further atrocities.
VIDTF 3 saw 25 experts in victim identification from 16 countries and 22 agencies coming together to work on shared materials at Europol’s headquarters over 12 days. They were supported by Europol staff, all specialists and analysts in this crime area. The unique combination of collaborative work, image and video analysis, and criminal intelligence meant that the experts worked through millions of files to find and exploit vital clues. The effort was funded by the European Commission’s EMPACT Cyber CSE programme.
The uploading of groups of linked images and video files to the International Child Sexual Exploitation Database (ICSE) hosted at Interpol is an integral part of the VIDTF model. This allows investigators with access to ICSE to contribute to the effort while it is taking place and afterwards. In VIDTF 3 the different teams uploaded 265 new contributions to ICSE and made more than 350 additions to existing contributions, therefore increasing the chances of the victims depicted being identified and safeguarded. Another significant part of the work is using existing techniques and developing new techniques to gather information from images and video files. Experts worked extensively on this and shared the new knowledge with their colleagues.
Steven Wilson, Head of EC3 stated: “Europol and EC3 are determined to put victims at the centre of investigations of this type. The Victim Identification Task Force is a very definite way of illustrating that resolve. Victims of this crime of sexual abuse and exploitation deserve every chance to be made safe from past and future harm. At Europol we will do everything that we can to support the international community of investigators in ensuring that this is the case.”
Victim identification experts participated from Interpol and law enforcement agencies in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA.