Ninety percent of commercial child pornography online originates with organized crime in Eastern Europe, according to a prominent anti-child pornography group.

Russia and the St. Petersburg-based Russian Business Network, which sells website hosting to child pornographers, phishers and identity stealers, are mainly to blame, said Tim Henning, technology and research director for the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP). Law enforcement, he said, has been overwhelmed by the exploding number of online child pornography cases.

“The Russian Business Network, akin to the Russian mob – for the most part ex-KGB – their (commercial child pornography) stuff is there to steal credit card data,” he said. “When someone goes to join one of those sites, the billing page is false. The aim is actually to steal credit card data.”

Lure of Porn Easy Way to Steal ID

Luring credit card-wielding perverts to these pornography sites is far easier and less risky for criminals than stealing identities by hacking or using gambling sites.

“The victims, if you can call them that, are less likely to complain to the authorities or their bank,” he said. “When they see their statement and put two and two together, they’re more likely to cancel the credit card or report it lost, rather than saying to their bank, ‘I was trying to buy illegal images of child pornography.’ ”

Henning, who participates in the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography’s technological challenges working group, says case backlogs are a problem for law enforcement, specifically the FBI.

Case Volume is Daunting

“It’s the sheer volume,” he said. “Even though the numbers have dropped in the past year, year and a half, it’s still daunting.”

In a report released last month, the US Justice Department’s inspector general noted that the number of online child pornography cases handed by the FBI increased by more than 20-fold between 1996 and 2007, and that the heavy volume meant it could take as long as nine months to examine evidence.

“The review and processing of digital evidence can be very time-consuming because of the large volume of evidence in many cases, and we found a significant backlog in the FBI’s review of digital evidence in crimes against children cases,” said the report.

-- Beth Kampschror