Leading fiber broadband provider Converge ICT Solutions Inc. has invested over P100 million to intensify its network security systems as part of efforts to help make the internet a safer place, especially for children.
To date, over 20,000 websites featuring child sexual abuse imagery have been blocked on the Converge network, effectively curbing the heavy traffic to these illicit sites that has been averaging 1,200 hits per minute, according to internal data.
“We are committed to ensure that our network is ironclad against illicit content, especially those harmful to children. Schemes to spread this criminal content evolve with technology and that’s why we continually upgrade our tools to combat them. So far, we’ve invested over P100 million in internet safety tools to ensure that the content that passes through our network is safe,” said Converge Chief Technology Officer Ronald Brusola.
This comes after a substantial upgrade on Converge’s cyber-defense tools, ramping up from a DNS filtering solution to an HTTPS URL/ Domain filtering system.
DNS filtering entails the user’s computer to go through Converge’s network first before accessing the site. If the URL is blacklisted on the network, access is denied. However, as some tech-savvy individuals are bypassing Converge’s network, they are still able to view the sites hosting imagery of child sexual abuse.
On the HTTPS URL/Domain filtering, when the user tries to access a blocked site, the request is dropped and the user is redirected to a corresponding warning page on the type of abuse.
To recall, in July, Converge partnered with UK-based child abuse watchdog Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to step up the fight against the spread of images and videos of child sex abuse.
Key to this partnership is the license to use IWF’s URL list of criminal webpages as a master list to block URLs. According to internal data of Converge, an average of 1,200 hits per minute are received and blocked from these sites.
IWF detects exponential increase in sexual abuse material online
In a recent report, the IWF declared that 2021 was the worst year on record for child sexual abuse online as lockdowns saw younger children being targeted by internet groomers. Last year, the IWF took action against 252,000 URLS globally which contained images and videos of children being raped and suffering sexual abuse.
The IWF is warning parents that internet sex predators are targeting and grooming younger children, with content showing the abuse of children aged between 7 and 10 years old growing three-fold making it the fastest growing age group. While self-generated content of children aged 11-13 remains the biggest age group for this kind of material.
Child safety experts say younger children have been relying more and more on the internet during the pandemic, and that spending longer online may be leaving them more vulnerable to communities of criminals who are looking to find and manipulate children into recording their own sexual abuse on camera. The footage is then shared among other criminals on the open internet.
Report illicit sites
As the pandemic draws more people to rely heavily on the internet for daily activities, Converge recognizes its role in ensuring that the internet remains a safe space for everyone.
Converge works closely with the National Telecommunications Commission in the fight against online abuse and encourages everyone to support the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Social Welfare and Development with their Child Online Safeguarding Policy.
To report any case of online sexual exploitation of children by calling 1343 for Metro Manila and 02-1343 for outside Metro Manila. You can also report cases online at www.1343actionline.ph. To report child pornography sites, you may text DSWD <space> blockchildporn <space> URL address and send to 2327. You may also text blockchildporn <space> URL and send to 0918 912 2813.
Additionally, Converge is in close coordination with government agencies such as the NTC, the Philippine National Police-Cybercrime Division, and the National Bureau of Investigation to ensure a wider scope of reporting of illegal online content.
“Converge began this cybersecurity program four years ago, and since then, we’ve only increased our coverage to monitor illegal activity on our network. Apart from imagery of child sexual abuse, we are on the lookout for scams involving financial institutions and online gambling. We are steadfast in making sure our network is being used for the good of everyone,” noted Brusola.