OSINT on the Dark Web: Child Abuse Material Investigations

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Information & Security: An International Journal, Volume 53, Issue 1, p. 21-32 (2022)


CAM, child abuse material, cybercrime, dark web, investigation, OSINT


The Dark Web allows users to hide their identity while browsing or sending information, providing an ideal environment for transferring information, goods, and services with potentially illegal intentions. Therefore, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) are interested in Open Source INTelligence (OSINT) on the Dark Web. LEAs need appropriate techniques to find darknet sites used by criminals. This article examines online child sexual exploitation and the various OSINT automation tools that can be exploited on the Dark Web. Additionally, we consider OSINT on the Dark Web, paying attention to the challenges LEAs face when investigating crimes related to child abuse material (CAM). The biggest challenges are related to data storage and the criminal investigation itself. CAM may not be recorded or examined except by an LEA officer specifically designated and trained for this purpose. The study examines how OSINT could be implemented without exposing researchers to the contents of CAM. The method could be to focus the inquiry on already known links and sites. This has challenges, but a bigger number of LEAs could carry out such an inquiry, and the storage of such data would not be illegal.