Investigators allow unprecedented look into Cyber Crimes unit

It's a heartbreaking crime. In fiscal year 2015, 1,004 victims of child exploitation were rescued by cyber crime investigators.

Peter Edge, who oversees Homeland Security investigations, says the dark web is to blame.

"I've kind of termed it as 'the Internet inside the Internet'. People can think they can hide, almost in plain sight, by being behind a computer keyboard," Edge says. Half of all the data collected by Homeland Security Investigations is child pornorgraphy, and the most difficult cases end up in a forensics lab in suburban Washington.

These investigators see the worst of humanity every day as they hunt child predators online. We're now getting a never-before-seen look into how they catch these suspects, relying on clues that would go unnoticed to the untrained eye.

James Cole with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took FOX's Catherine Herridge behind the scenes in the cyber crimes unit where no news team has gone before, where child victims are identified with obscure clues buried in online photos.

For example, the steering wheel in one photo is enhanced and identified by model and year. The trees in the background are only found in the southeast. A prescription bottle shows a partial name and RX number.

"When we provide that information with legal process to the parent corporation of CVS, they were able to provide 13 individuals," Cole explains.

Another image with an unusual stuffed animal led to 42 arrests worldwide, after the European toymaker was found.

"Once they were able to identify and make that association, they contacted the Danish authorities and they went out with us right away," Edge says.

These cases take an emotional toll on investigators, but each successful case is a motivator to keep going.

"Our satisfaction comes from the identification and rescue of those children," Cole says. "If we don't try to rescue those children, who's going to?"