Images of child abuse are shared across closed chatrooms and underground peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The sites hosting the content are generally set up to last for a few days at a time, often jumping servers, making them difficult for the authorities to track.
A number of agencies have been formed across the world to prevent and deter online child abuse. These agencies use broad skill-sets including law enforcement, forensic computing specialists, covert internet investigators and, in some cases, help from the public.
Visiting any website leaves tell-tale signs: an individual computer's temporary internet folder, server logs and a record of that machine's individual IP address.
All of these things can build up a picture of that machine's web activity.
Users may feel the web offers a degree of anonymity but with the right tools and know-how, tracking where and what a computer has been doing is entirely possible.
A list of websites which are known to contain images of child sexual abuse are banned from major search engines and some ISPs.
This list is maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation. It fields reports from members of the public who have come across material on the web they think might be illegal. In the last year it received 32,000 reports.
"The IWF has a team of trained analysts, they process every report that we receive," said the IWF's Sarah Robertson. "They develop intelligence from those reports and, once that assessment's made, the content is then traced to find which server it's hosted on around the world.
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