The arrest of government advisor Patrick Rock for alleged child pornography offences throws into sharp focus the need to protect networks against illegal material.

If we simply wait for incidents to come to light, our actions will have limited impact. A proactive approach is the key to disrupting the spread of illegal material.

Rock's arrest has demonstrated the important point that the people committing these offences don't just exist in a dark criminal underworld, or between the lines of a newspaper. They are part of our day-to-day communities – they are employees, tenants and siblings. In so many cases, their crimes seem unexpected or out of character.

The workplace is often missed from the debate about illegal online activity. But it shouldn't be. Users who are obsessed with child pornography will store or access images and videos whenever possible.

Illegal content

From our experience we know that over one person in every thousand will access illegal content in the workplace or via a work device. Organisations and businesses of every type need to acknowledge this and take responsibility for their own networks.

So far, the debate on tackling child pornography has centred on web filters. We've seen calls for companies such as Google and BT to take the lead in 'fixing' the internet. But the truth is that ISPs and search companies cannot do this alone. The spread of child abuse is a societal problem and a collaborative approach is required to solve it.

Web filters block the more obvious websites peddling illegal material and will deter curious browsers. But those actively seeking illegal pornographic content won't have trouble circumventing URL blocks.

Peer to peer networks, anonymisers like TOR and simple USB drives are all vehicles for accessing and sharing this kind of material. We need to bring the debate on child pornography up to date, and in line with reality.

There are reasonable steps that every organisation can be taking to understand if their networks and devices are unwittingly supporting criminal activity. Technological solutions exist, and we all have responsibility to do something. It is no longer defensible for businesses to say 'we didn't know'.

  • Christian Berg is the CEO and founder at NetClean