Security vendor Panda Software Thursday announced a 300 percent increase in calls reporting online child pornography over the last three years.

Protogeles, a European non-governmental organization (NGO) formed to track and remove child pornography from the Internet, said it has received a total of 28,900 complaints and identified roughly 1,900 pedophile communities around the world between 2001 and 2004.

The numbers underscore the recent localization and arrest of 500 child pornographers in a pedophilia ring that spanned 11 countries with 20,000 incidences of child pornography, officials at Panda Software said.

It's a topic that's received a great deal of national attention in recent Days. A former Boy Scouts of America executive pled guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of receiving and distributing child pornography.

According to a Reuters report, Douglas Smith, the organization's Task Force on Youth Protection leader, possessed 520 pornographic photos featuring young boys and used a "buddy list" to pass photos via the Internet.

The cause of the recent surge in online child pornography can be attributed to the growth of the Internet worldwide and the pervasive effects of the Internet here in the U.S., said Patrick Hinojosa, Panda Software CTO.

According to Computer Industry Almanac (CIA) numbers gathered in September, there are approximately 935 million Internet users worldwide, a number expected to top 1 billion this summer. While growth has stalled in developed countries where the market is saturated, the report finds that the largest growth is coming from countries like Brazil, China, Russia and Indonesia.

That growth in developing countries is providing a haven for people who peddle in child pornography, Hinojosa said.

"The pedophiles are getting more grooved into the Internet, saying, 'This is a good vector to find victims,'" he said. "So, over time it naturally grew."

Hinojosa also pointed to the increasingly pervasive effect the Internet is having on U.S. and Western culture, with more and more children acclimated to the Internet at a younger age.

He said the growth of real-time communications mediums like chat rooms and instant messaging has seeped into our culture and is used as a matter-of-course by teenagers and children.

Officials at Panda Software point to statistics compiled in Italy, where 86.5 percent of minors said they use chat rooms, a favorite tool for pedophiles.

Efforts in the U.S. and other first-world countries to stomp on this problem have been relatively successful. Congress passed the Protect Act of 2003, which, in an effort to prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation of children, funded the Amber Alert program for missing children.

The FBI has launched various national and international stings to apprehend online pedophiles, such as Operation Candyman in 2002 and the 2004 sweep of a P2P child pornography ring.

But outside Western countries, tracking down and arresting pedophiles is difficult. Countries with more pressing concerns like keeping their citizens clothed and fed takes precedence over something that happens on a computer, Hinojosa said.

In some countries, he added, it's not illegal to break into another person's computer. So law enforcement agencies in Western countries do most of the investigative work and they seek assistance from the local government when agents locate suspects.

"That's the last mile and hardest part," he said. "That's still a problem, the lack of resources to physically root some of these people out, but Western government are helping."