Collaboration Against OCSE Demonstrates Effectiveness

We are excited to share the successful results of Project Umbra Phase 1 in the fight to stop online child sexual exploitation (OCSE). This accomplishment is due to participating financial institutions and law enforcement.

  • LexisNexis Risk Solutions – Co-sponsor
  • Scotiabank – Co-sponsor
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • M&T Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • Early Warning®
  • RedCompass Labs
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • FINTRAC
  • Governmental agencies and private companies

In its first year, Project Umbra increased law enforcement referrals from participating financial institutions by nearly sixfold over the previous year using a methodology collaboratively developed for more effective detection and investigation of OCSE.

In the wake of the global pandemic, the US has emerged as the leading host of online child sexual exploitation material. The Internet Watch Foundation recently reported that the US hosts 69% of online child sexual exploitation material—more than any other country—a 228% increase from 2021.

This exponential increase drove The Knoble Network to develop Project Umbra. A ground-breaking initiative focused on creating an effective, efficient, and scalable process to allow financial institutions to identify potential OCSE better.

“Project Umbra demonstrates that through public/private collaboration, an efficient, effective process to identify and stop child sexual exploitation is not only possible, but also scalable and repeatable,” said Terry Schappert, Head of Financial Institution Relationships at The Knoble Network, and project co-sponsor.

“To deter the rise in child sexual exploitation, we must not rely solely on the heroic efforts of individuals. Collaborative efforts across financial institutions, service providers, regulators, and law enforcement are vital to be fully effective in snuffing out human crimes like OCSE,” stated Schappert.

The scalable and repeatable methodology collaboratively developed by Project Umbra participants leveraged financial crime risk and due diligence data in combination with each participating bank’s existing processes and OCSE—specific training for investigators.

“When applied to one bank’s portfolio, the process collaboratively developed by Project Umbra participants quickly identified 17 high-risk accounts that warranted additional review within its customer base of five million. With specific training on online child sexual exploitation topologies, investigators reviewed the high-risk accounts, leading to 10 referrals to law enforcement. Not only did this process effectively identify real risk, but it did so while maintaining a 1.5:1 false positive rate,” said Tracy Manning, Director of Financial Crime at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a project co-sponsor.

The findings demonstrate that financial institutions can more quickly and efficiently identify child sexual exploitation cases for referral to law enforcement without becoming overwhelmed by alert volumes and false positives.

“Project Umbra has been both professionally and personally rewarding for me. It has given my team a renewed sense of purpose and satisfaction related to the work we perform each day. I find I am now significantly more aware of potential warning signs of child sexual exploitation within my community,” said Karen Arrabal, SVP of Financial Crimes Investigations at Fifth Third Bank, a participating financial institution in Project Umbra. I find I am now significantly more aware of potential warning signs of child sexual exploitation within my community.”

By utilizing a collaborative approach with a multi-disciplinary group of subject matter experts, Project Umbra is yet another way that The Knoble Network is disrupting the way we solve global human issues.

“Project Umbra has been an important collaboration of subject matter experts leveraging their tools and knowledge to address one of the most heinous crimes against society’s most innocent and vulnerable victims. Through shared learnings across jurisdictions, scalable solutions are being identified and driving real impact,” said Stuart Davis, Executive Vice President, Financial Crimes Risk Management & Group Chief AML Officer, Scotiabank.

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