AFP blocks 10 child abuse websites using internet domain for Cocos (Keeling) Islands
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Federal police have shut down a network of websites responsible for distributing hundreds of thousands of child abuse pictures and videos through an internet domain connected to a tiny island off the Australian coast.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has been working with the Shire of Cocos (Keeling) Islands to investigate websites using the personalised geographical domain .cc to distribute sexual abuse materials.
The .cc domain, which is geographically assigned to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and managed by a tech giant in the United States, has appeared on watchlists for child exploitation over the past decade.
But in a targeted crackdown, the AFP said it had identified and blocked 10 websites responsible for distributing almost 1 million child abuse pictures and videos.
AFP Acting Cybercrime Inspector Cody Nagel said since the sites were blocked in early October, tens of thousands of people had tried to visit them.
Commonwealth authorities pledge to take action to stop the internet domain .cc, assigned to a remote Australian territory in the 1980s and now being used for child exploitation material.
"There has been more than 60,000 attempts from over 176 countries to access this material," Inspector Nagel said.
"We have been logging all of this information and we have been working in collaboration with the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation."
The AFP said investigations into the sites' administrators, contributors and users continued, and it would provide the IP addresses and identities of people who had visited the sites to the law enforcement agencies in all relevant countries.
A take down notice issued by the AFP has been put on the blocked websites, where visitors can no longer access abuse material.
The Shire of Cocos (Keeling) Islands said it was a great outcome after many months of collaboration with the AFP and other agencies.
Chief executive Frank Mills said he was disgusted that the tropical islands' reputation had been marred by underbelly crime.
"It certainly paints an awful picture for the Cocos Keeling Islands and certainly the shire as the owner of the .cc domain," Mr Mills said.
"Cocos is a wonderful place and has pretty much zero crime.
"To have this awful blot is abhorrent, particularly for it to be related to child sex abuse material."
Inspector Nagel said creators and administrators of child abuse websites often used foreign domains as it was cheaper.
"In this case cost is definitely a factor because .cc is one of the cheapest domains to register," he said.
AFP Acting Commander of Cybercrime Tim Stainton said Australian domain names should not be a safe haven for illegal content.
"These videos and images show real children being exploited, physically harmed and traumatised for the perverse gratification of offenders," Acting Commander Stainton said.
"Each time these files are shared it perpetuates the harm caused to these children."
The AFP, Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts and the domain administrator were involved in the months-long investigation.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the investigation was part of a broader mission to target child exploitation online.
"With our partners in law enforcement, we continue to chip away at one of he most distressing and abhorrent violations of human rights: the sexual abuse of children," she said.
"This challenge is of epic, global proportions, and I urge all Australians to help eradicate this content by reporting it."
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