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Over 300m children a year face sexual abuse online, study claims

Over 300m children a year face sexual abuse online, study claims

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Over 300m children a year face sexual abuse online, study claims

More than 300 million children a year are victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse, according to research.

In what marks the first global estimate of the scale of the crisis, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found one in eight, or 12.6 per cent, of the world’s children have been victims of non-consensual talking, sharing and exposure to sexual images and video in the past year, amounting to about 302 million young people.

In addition, 12.5 per cent of children globally (300 million) are estimated to have been subject in the past year to online solicitation, such as unwanted sexual talk which can include non-consensual sexting, unwanted sexual questions and unwanted sexual act requests by adults or other youths.

Offences can also take the form of ‘sextortion’, where predators demand money from victims to keep images private, to abuse of AI deepfake technology.

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While problems exist in all parts of the world, the research suggests the United States is a particularly high-risk area.

The university’s Childlight initiative – which aims to understand the prevalence of child abuse – includes a new global index, Into The Light, which found one in nine men in the US (almost 14 million) admitted online offending against children at some point.

Surveys found seven per cent of British men, or 1.8 million, admitted the same, as did 7.5 per cent of men in Australia.

The research also found many men admitted they would seek to commit physical sexual offences against children if they thought it would be kept secret.

Childlight chief executive Paul Stanfield said: ‘This is on a staggering scale that in the UK alone equates to forming a line of male offenders that could stretch all the way from Glasgow to London – or filling Wembley Stadium 20 times over

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‘Child abuse material is so prevalent that files are on average reported to watchdog and policing organisations once every second.

‘This is a global health pandemic that has remained hidden for far too long. It occurs in every country, it’s growing exponentially, and it requires a global response.

‘We need to act urgently and treat it as a public health issue that can be prevented. Children can’t wait’.

Debi Fry, a professor of international child protection at the university, said the issue affects children ‘in every classroom, in every school, in every country’.

She added: ‘These aren’t harmless images, they are deeply damaging, and the abuse continues with every view and the failure of taking down this abusive content.’

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Stephen Kavanagh, executive director of Interpol, said: ‘Online exploitation and abuse is a clear and present danger to the world’s children, and traditional law enforcement approaches are struggling to keep up.

‘We must do much more together at a global level, including specialist investigator training, better data sharing and equipment to effectively fight this pandemic and the harm it inflicts on millions of young lives around the world.’

Frida, whose name has been changed, is a survivor of online child sexual abuse and exploitation who was targeted through social media from the age of 13 to 18 by a man in his 30s.

‘In order to understand and prevent harm we need to see ambitious regulation to hold these platforms to account and to see regulators equipped to work with the millions affected by this harm year on year’.

Grace Tame, another survivor, leads the Grace Tame Foundation which works to prevent and respond to sexual abuse of children.

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She said: ‘Child sexual abuse is a global public health crisis that is steadily worsening thanks to advancing technologies which enable instantaneous production and limitless distribution of child exploitation material, as well as unregulated access to children online.

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Three ‘pro-Russian’ hackers arrested in Spain over cyberattacks

Three ‘pro-Russian’ hackers arrested in Spain over cyberattacks

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Three 'pro-Russian' hackers arrested in Spain over cyberattacks

Three pro-Russian hackers have been arrested for alleged cyberattacks against Spain and other NATO countries for terrorist purposes, Spanish police said on Saturday.

The suspects were detained for their alleged participation in distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber attacks against public institutions and strategic sectors, the Civil Guard said.

It did not say if the three suspects, who have not been named, have been charged or detained.

The cyberattacks were allegedly carried out against web pages of public and private organizations in the government sectors, critical infrastructures and essential services in countries which support Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, it said.

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Police released a video on social media platform X of a raid at the home of one of the suspects in which a Soviet-era hammer and sickle flag was mounted on a wall.

“These computer attacks have been organized by the hacktivist group NoName057(16), (which started) after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and (which has been) one of the most active,” the Civil Guard said in a statement.

“In their own founding manifesto, this group acknowledges that they ‘will respond proportionately in response to the hostile and openly anti-Russian actions of Western Russophobes’.”

The arrests took place in Manacor on Spain’s Balearic Island of Mallorca, and in Huelva and Seville, in southern Spain, police said. Police said the investigation was ongoing.

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Microsoft says about 8.5 million of its devices affected by CrowdStrike-related outage

Microsoft says about 8.5 million of its devices affected by CrowdStrike-related outage

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Microsoft says about 8.5 million of its devices affected by CrowdStrike-related outage

A global tech outage that was related to a software update by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike affected nearly 8.5 million Microsoft devices, Microsoft said in a blog post on Saturday.

“We currently estimate that CrowdStrike’s update affected 8.5 million Windows devices, or less than one percent of all Windows machines,” it said in the blog.

A software update by global cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, one of the largest operators in the industry, triggered systems problems that grounded flights, forced broadcasters off air and left customers without access to services such as healthcare or banking. 

“While the percentage was small, the broad economic and societal impacts reflect the use of CrowdStrike by enterprises that run many critical services,” Microsoft said in its blog post.

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CrowdStrike has helped develop a solution that will help Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure accelerate a fix, Microsoft said, adding that it was working with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, sharing information about the effects Microsoft was seeing across the industry.

The air travel industry was recovering on Saturday from the outage that caused thousands of flights to be cancelled, leaving passengers stranded or grappling with hours of delays as airports and airlines were caught up in the IT outage.

Delta Air Lines, one of the hardest-hit airlines, said that as of 10 a.m EDT (1400 GMT) on Saturday, more than 600 flights had been canceled, adding that additional cancellations were expected.

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Malicious actors trying to exploit global tech outage for their own gain

Malicious actors trying to exploit global tech outage for their own gain

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Malicious actors trying to exploit global tech outage for their own gain

As the world continues to recover from massive business and travel disruptions caused by a faulty software update from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, malicious actors are trying to exploit the situation for their own gain.

Government cybersecurity agencies across the globe and CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz are warning businesses and individuals about new phishing schemes that involve malicious actors posing as CrowdStrike employees or other tech specialists offering to assist those recovering from the outage.

“We know that adversaries and bad actors will try to exploit events like this,” Kurtz said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to remain vigilant and ensure that you’re engaging with official CrowdStrike representatives.”

The UK Cyber Security Center said they have noticed an increase in phishing attempts around this event.

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Microsoft said 8.5 million devices running its Windows operating system were affected by the faulty cybersecurity update Friday that led to worldwide disruptions.

That’s less than 1% of all Windows-based machines, Microsoft cybersecurity executive David Weston said in a blog post on Saturday.

He also said such a significant disturbance is rare but “demonstrates the interconnected nature of our broad ecosystem.” 

What’s happening with air travel?

With their tightly timed, interwoven schedules and complex technology systems, many big airlines struggle to stay on time when everything goes well. It perhaps was not surprising that the industry was among the hardest hit by the outage, with crews and planes caught out of position.

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By mid-afternoon Saturday on the U.S. East Coast, airlines around the world had canceled more than 2,000 flights, according to tracking service FlightAware. That was down from 5,100-plus cancellations on Friday.

About 1,600 of Saturday’s canceled flights occurred in the United States, where carriers scrambled to get planes and crews back into position after massive disruptions the day before. According to travel data provider Cirium, U.S. carriers canceled about 3.5% of their scheduled flights for Saturday. Only Australia was hit harder.

Canceled flights were running at about 1% in the United Kingdom, France and Brazil and about 2% in Canada, Italy and India among major air-travel markets.

Robert Mann, a former airline executive and now a consultant in the New York area, said it was unclear exactly why U.S. airlines were suffering disproportionate cancellations, but possible causes include a greater degree of outsourcing of technology and more exposure to Microsoft operating systems that received the faulty upgrade from CrowdStrike.

Which airlines are getting hit the hardest?

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Delta Air Lines canceled more than 800 flights, or one-fourth of its schedule for Saturday, and that number did not include Delta Connection regional flights. It was followed by United Airlines, which dropped nearly 400 flights.

The worst airport to be, for a second straight day, was Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where Delta is the dominant carrier. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that thousands of people spent the night at the airport, many sleeping on the floors.

European airlines and airports appeared to be recovering slowly, although Lufthansa and its affiliates canceled dozens of flights. Its Eurowings budget subsidiary said check-in, boarding, booking and rebooking flights were all available again, although “isolated disruptions” were possible.

London’s Heathrow Airport said it was busy but operating normally on Saturday and that “all systems are back up and running.” Flights at Berlin’s main airport were departing on or close to schedule, German Press Agency dpa reported, citing an airport spokesman.

How are healthcare systems holding up?

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Health care systems affected by the outage faced clinic closures, canceled surgeries and appointments and restricted access to patient records.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., said “steady progress has been made” to bring its servers back online and thanked its patients for being flexible during the crisis.

“Our teams will be working actively through the weekend as we continue to resolve remaining issues in preparation for the start of the work week,” the hospital wrote in a statement.

In Austria, a leading organization of doctors said the outage exposed the vulnerability of relying on digital systems. Harald Mayer, vice president of the Austrian Chamber of Doctors, said the outage showed that hospitals need analog backups to protect patient care.

The organization also called on governments to impose high standards in patient data protection and security, and on health providers to train staff and put systems in place to manage crises.

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“Happily, where there were problems, these were kept small and short-lived and many areas of care were unaffected” in Austria, Mayer said.

The Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital in northern Germany, which canceled all elective procedures Friday, said Saturday that systems were gradually being restored and that elective surgery could resume by Monday.

Will the tech industry face a reckoning?

“I wasn’t that surprised that an accident caused severe global digital disruption. I was a little surprised that the cause of it was a software update from a very well-respected cybersecurity company,” said Oxford University management professor Ciaran Martin, a former chief executive of the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center.

“There are some very hard questions for CrowdStrike. How on earth did this update get through quality control?” he said. “Clearly the testing regime, whatever it is, failed.”

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Martin said governments in the U.K. and the European Union will be powerless to take steps to prevent such breakdowns “because we have become dependent on a very American version of technology, and the power to do anything about that doesn’t rest in this continent.”

Other analysts doubted that the outage would lead Washington or any other government to propose new mandates on tech companies.

“I don’t know what the mandate would be. Do better QA?” said Gartner analyst Eric Grenier, using an acronym for quality assurance.

What did scam artists learn from the outage?

Grenier expects that a majority of affected machines will be fixed in about a week, with more time needed to reach laptops used by far-flung workers because the work can’t be done remotely – it’s a hands-on operation.

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In the meantime, there will be scammers trying to take advantage of businesses that have indicated they were affected by the outage.

“The threat is very real,” Grenier said. “Bad actors have the information to send targeted phishing emails and calls. They know what endpoint-protection tools you use. They know you use CrowdStrike.”

Grenier said affected businesses need to make sure they use a fix supplied by CrowdStrike. “Don’t accept the help of somebody coming out of the blue and saying, ‘I’ll fix that for you,’” he said.

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