We recently discussed the increase nationwide and in Missouri of technology related offenses that involve children as victims. One way that such offenses come to the attention of law enforcement is when a cyber tip is submitted through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline. Members of the public and electronic service providers (“ESPs”) can make reports or “tips” to NCMEC of suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts or of suspected child pornography being distributed.
Electronic service providers, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Imgur, Omegle, and Snapchat submit the majority of tips to NCMEC. When an ESP becomes aware of child pornography on its network, it is required by law under 18 U.S.C. §2258 A to submit a report to the CyberTipline.
NCMEC staff review each tip to determine if the reported material is apparent child pornography. Someone at NCMEC reviews the reported material or determines if there is a “Hash Match” which is a unique numerical identifier for a certain file, group of files, or portion of a file. Unique hash values have been created for many known child pornography images.
If the reported material is apparent child pornography, NCMEC works to find a potential location for the incident reported. Sometimes NCMEC can identify the email address of the account that distributed the material or can identify the IP address used in the distribution of the material. NCMEC then sends the tip to the appropriate law-enforcement agency for possible investigation. In Southwest Missouri, such a tip would go to the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force in Joplin, Missouri.
The Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force then reviews the tip and attempts to connect an individual suspect with the images reported to NCMEC in the cyber tip. The Task Force often obtains a search warrant to search the suspect’s home and to seize computers, cell phones, and storage devices for forensic analysis. If child pornography is found on the suspect’s devices, the Task Force will submit the case to a federal prosecutor for charges to be filed.
NCMEC reports that from 2019 to 2020, reports to the CyberTipline increased 28%. And recently Apple announced new technology that will enable it to detect Child Sexual Abuse Material images stored in iCloud photos and report those to NCMEC. So it is likely that the number of cyber tips in 2021 and 2022 will surpass 2020’s tips.
If the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force serves a search warrant at your home, it is best to contact Cantin Mynarich’s attorneys immediately. If an attorney can begin working on your case and communicating with law enforcement before you get charged, that could possibly help you later if charges are ever filed against you.