Garda cyber unit identified nine children living in Ireland who were filmed being sexually abused by predators
An elite Garda unit specializing in investigating a wide range of crimes this year identified nine child victims of sexual abuse in Ireland who were filmed by their attackers.
The work of the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) on these cases was highlighted by Detective Chief Superintendent Barry Walsh, the unit’s lead officer, who this year has closed a total of 672 cases involving dozens of different crime categories.
In conversation with the Irish Independent At the office’s new base on Military Road in Dublin, the senior officer said all identified children were the subject of “appropriate security intervention”, meaning they were taken to a safe place after being identified by the highly qualified members of the office were Cyber Intelligence and Cyber Investigative Units.
Prosecution in these cases is likely as the entities involved continue to work with Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation of Children (ICSE) image and video database, which allows specialized investigators to share data on child sexual abuse cases.
Det Chief Supt Walsh pointed out that 55 percent of the Bureau’s cases involve investigating child sexual abuse material.
And although it was widely reported that there was sometimes a three-year delay in processing these cases, the senior official pointed out that the bureau had closed 202 cases of this type this year.
“Not every case is three years old — for example, only two cases from 2019 have not been processed,” said Det Chief Supt Walsh.
“Progress is being made and while I don’t want to go into the details, there is a matrix, a basis on which we prioritize cases that involve risk assessments and other factors,” he added.
The GNCCB has been heavily involved in investigating a number of high-profile child sex cases, as well as hundreds that have not gone public.
One of the most prominent of these was the investigation into former RTÉ producer and pedophile Kieran Creaven, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence after Gardaí obtained evidence he filmed himself sexually abusing a young child in the Philippines while other children in the room were .
He admitted to sexually exploiting children online in Dublin, sexually abusing and exploiting children on three counts in the Philippines and possessing images of child abuse in the UK and Ireland.
One of the children who was sexually exploited in Ireland was 13 and another was in the care of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
“In this case, the Online Child Exploitation Unit within the Garda National Protective Services Bureau worked with colleagues from Interpol and the Philippines to identify a number of child sexual abuse victims who were repatriated to safe locations,” Det Chief Supt said Walsh.
He explained that the office conducted a forensic investigation into the equipment confiscated from Creaven and came across videos of him abusing children in the Philippines, which then required forensic processing.
“It was a very time-consuming case. It was weeks of work instead of days. The material we found was not visible to a normal user,” said Det Chief Supt Walsh.
“We have leads on the children he dealt with in the Philippines and we helped identify them. These indicators were an important basis for investigating Gardaí in identifying these children.
“This is a good example of the benefits of expanding the office and 58 additional staff have worked here over the past two years. We now have very significant intelligence and investigative capabilities, and the office will continue to hire new staff – for example, we will be hiring 26 civilian forensic analysts next year.”
The GNCCB has also been involved in a number of high-profile murder cases in recent years, including a key role in the investigation into the murder of Bobby Ryan, a DJ known as “Mr Moonlight,” where key evidence was obtained from the office from killer Patrick’s computer Quirke.
In total, the GNCCB was involved in 36 homicide investigations this year – a large increase from the previous year when it was involved in eight homicide investigations.
In late August, the GNCCB warned parents to be careful when sharing back-to-school photos on social media and advised people to make sure the photos didn’t include any personal information.
The senior detective pointed out that this advice still applies, warning that “parents need to be internet conscious and know what their kids are doing online – don’t assume the kids are aware of the potential dangers”.
He added: “The internet has changed our daily lives, but there are dangers that need to be recognized. Many children receive new gadgets for Christmas and it is very important for parents to advise their children on how to use them.
“There should always be parental control for young children, and don’t assume children will figure things out for themselves for safety reasons.”
Following last year’s massive ransomware attack on the HSE, which identified 113,000 hacked victims, this year has seen an increase in ransomware cyber attacks targeting small businesses across Ireland.
Gardaí have previously warned that companies are paying ransom demands to criminals, and the Chief Superintendent pointed out that while figures for Ireland are not available, the FBI has estimated that only 15 percent of cybercrimes are reported to law enforcement and this type of crime is reported Organized crime now costs 20 billion euros worldwide every year.
“We believe that there is too little reporting here, too. Businesses here need to take every precaution and it’s important that they back up their data on a separate server – without that backup they’ll have to deal with a potential disaster if they fall victim,” said Det Chief Supt Walsh.
“Staff need to be properly trained not to engage with unknown or suspicious links and be aware of ransomware and malware attacks. People should separate their personal lives from their business lives online.”
The office will continue to hire new staff – for example, next year we will hire 26 civilian forensic scientists
Referring to the HSE attack – which is widely reported to have been carried out by a Russia-based cyber gang – the lead officer stated his belief that “identification of individual threat actors” was still possible in this case.
“This is a very lively and active investigation and we have made a number of tangible breakthroughs in relation to it,” he said.
In one of Ireland’s fastest growing crime categories, Det Chief Supt Walsh spoke about the important work being done at the four new Cybercrime Hubs across the country that have been set up at Garda stations in Cork, Galway, Mullingar and Wexford.
“While 55 percent of our cases involve people suspected of dealing with child sexual abuse material, we have a forensic footprint in a huge area of other crimes – our remit is very broad,” he said.
As of December 20 of this year, the Bureau was involved in investigating 58 cases of theft and fraud, 18 cases of sexual assault/rape, 22 cases of illegal drugs and 33 cases of molestation.
This is an increase in each of these crime categories from figures released for last year and 2020.
Overall, the bureau began investigating 478 new cases this year, compared to 487 last year and 400 in 2020.
This included six ransomware attacks this year compared to 15 cases last year.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/garda-cyber-unit-identified-nine-irish-based-children-who-were-filmed-being-sexually-abused-by-predators-42253950.html Garda cyber unit identified nine children living in Ireland who were filmed being sexually abused by predators