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Dare Not Look into the Abyss

I’m worried. That’s not unusual but on this occasion, the success of Operation Ore is raising all manner of unpleasant implications, which stretch beyond its natural constituency of ageing judges, politicians and rock stars.

Without a doubt, Operation Ore has been a big success for the Police in the continuing fight against paedophile crime and in some respects, with over seven thousand names to investigate, it’s almost too successful, pulling away already stretched resources from an increasingly organised wave of Internet-related crime, which rushed-in to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Dot Com bubble.

Ore is however just the tip of an iceberg of incalculable size, a successful sting on one website among countless thousands, of explicit sites, which can be found within seconds of loading any one of the dedicated search engines. As a consequence, the true figure for people in the UK involved in the downloading and distribution of paedophile content alone might be nearer 70,000 then 7,000 and perhaps even higher still.

What worries me from a business perspective is that all kinds of illegal and explicit sites increasingly thrive on Broadband – The Korean experience - and with Broadband still in the minority among domestic users, this suggests that a hidden quantity of potentially illegal traffic, paedophile or otherwise, is passing through company networks. It’s a theory, of course rather like the assumption that our universe is full of invisible, ‘Dark Matter’ but with so many organisations having very little in the way of a content filtering policy, it’s difficult to argue otherwise.

My own guess is that the public sector is more likely to face compromise than the private sector, which, in my experience is a little more diligent as regards what goes in and out of the corporate network. Most organisation are more concerned about managing their email than monitoring their content but even then, too many organisations have little or no sensible policy in place.

Last year, in a piece of research, I found that scanning electronic mail for malicious attachments is a near universal procedure among administrators (93%) but that only 42% were then tackling the growing problem of spamming with 43% monitoring communication for signs of obscene or inappropriate content. Just before Xmas KVS revealed in a survey that Forty-one percent Of Public Sector IT Managers don’t have an email management policy in place or haven’t reviewed email back up policies at all, in advance of meeting compliance with the UK Government’s 2004 legislation.

The good news then, if there is any, is that the country is facing a sixty-forty split, between those organisations that have ‘a handle’ on their network traffic and their email management and those who don’t. Naturally, there are serious implications for those who don’t, if in the light of Operation Ore, my own pet theory on the hidden presence of the Internet’s own ‘Dark Matter’ is even partially close to the truth.


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