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Crime agencies take child sexual abuse battle to the cloud

International crime agencies can work against child sexual abuse like never before thanks to a cloud-based system that is making it more simple to communicate new material.

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Project Vic, which has been coordinated by the US Department of Homeland Security and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, is aiming to focus on new material and reduce the duplication of information across local, state and federal agencies.

The technology and software being used comes from a collection of different companies including Netclean, Hubstream and a number of others, with each one allowing investigating officers to categorise material. Project Vic allows those using it to centre on new pieces of information and develop a summary or “hash” for those items.

"The idea is to allow law enforcement to run data against hash sets that are immediately available through cloud services. They can interrogate that data in real time and know a lot of things about it very quickly,” James Cole, national programme manager at Homeland Security, told the BBC.

Cole went on to explain that flagging up new information is so important in the fight against abusers as the newer images act as a currency among those that trade the images.

"In well over 90 per cent of our cases there's no money changing hands," he said. "It's the material itself that is highly desirable for offenders. Money does not come into play."

The project organisers also want to promote and gain backing for a standards-based image formatting system that generates hashes using an open protocol. This would make it simpler to exchange large sets of hashes domestically and internationally without the need to edit or manipulate data.

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Forces from the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are already helping to test out the new system that it’s hoped will be rolled out on a worldwide basis.