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    Our role in the Safety Tech Challenge

    As more digital platforms look to fully encrypt their messaging services, efforts to disrupt and prevent the spread of child sexual abuse material online could be hampered, helping criminals evade detection.

    This is why we partnered with digital forensics company Cyacomb for the Safety Tech Challenge, a UK Government-funded initiative to develop innovative tech solutions for detecting child sexual abuse content in end-to-end encrypted environments, while ensuring that users’ privacy is respected.

    Through our collaboration with Cyacomb, we’ve helped to create a tool that could block images and videos of children suffering sexual abuse from being uploaded into end-to-end encrypted platforms, where it would be impossible to trace them.

    This has shown that a technical solution to the challenge posed by end-to-end encryption is possible and would help in preventing the spread of known criminal content.

    We tested the solution in an enclosed environment to simulate how the tool would detect real child sexual abuse content in a private messaging platform.

    While it is not possible to scan inside an end-to-end encrypted environment, it is possible to stop known child sexual abuse content from being uploaded into an end-to-end environment before it is transmitted, distributed, and shared.

    This tool has potential; however, it needs to be used in conjunction with other measures to make sure children are fully protected.

    Ian Stevenson, Cyacomb CEO said: “We were privileged to collaborate with IWF on the UK Government Safety Tech Challenge Fund exploring potential solutions for detecting and blocking child sexual abuse material in end-to-end encrypted messaging environments.

    “The IWF provided deep understanding of the problem to be solved, the challenges in doing so, and was able to provide practical testing in appropriately secure and controlled environments. We learned a huge amount from this collaboration, and IWF testing contributed to confidence that the technologies under development were effective.

    “We hope this work will continue to develop to the point where it can deliver real impact in the fight against child sexual abuse imagery in messaging for IWF Members and more widely.”