In the recent past we have witnessed an increase in reported child abuse cases. It is a disconcerting fact that we have pedophiles in our midst. Pedophiles are adults who are sexually attracted to children. This reprehensible behavior is not usually confined to individual sexual predators.
Pedophiles usually operate in a network or ring that cuts across national borders. They distribute digital images of their diabolical acts through the internet. This darker digital side of pedophilia has manifested itself in child pornography.
Pedophiles have for a long time used the internet to distribute videos and images of children being abused. Law enforcement agencies in the developed west have in the recent past hunted and hounded these sexual predators, especially in the internet. This intense crackdown has resorted to pedophiles hiding their graphic digital images within other innocent looking images.
This practice is called steganography and is most likely being used by our homegrown pedophiles. Steganography is the art of concealing data/images within data or another image.
One of the most common functions of steganography is in digital watermarking. To be able to protect images posted in the web a watermark is inserted in the image.
This is usually a logo, or text that enables the source of an image or document to be authenticated. Some digital watermarks are overt and others are covert. A good example of overt watermarks can be found in www.airliners.net.
To evade detection, a pedophile will send (via e-mail) a pornographic digital image which is transposed into an innocent digital picture. These hidden images are received by fellow pedophiles who are able to extract the hidden images by using special steganography software.
Special software is required to hide and unhide these images. There are many freeware versions available at any good download site.
One of the negative effects of the recently arrived undersea fibre-optic cables will be to make it easier for local pedophiles to send steganographic images to other ill-minded people.
The need for an efficient Cyber-crime unit in Kenya cannot be over-emphasized. Within it would be stega-analysts who would digitally investigate images with the objective of detecting and breaking steganography.
It is high time we confronted pedophilia by using technology to stop their nefarious activities. Our children are under threat and increased computer security can assist apprehend these criminals.