Cobwebs Helps to Combat Child Exploitation and Abuse

February 21, 2023

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) technology is being used across the globe by investigators to protect communities, analyze threats, and safeguard organizations. OSINT is rapidly becoming a “go-to tool” for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and Human Trafficking investigations.

“The disturbing reality is that the internet platforms we use every day to connect with each other and share information are now being used to disseminate and collect CSAM. CSAM can be found in virtually any online realm,” according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Law enforcement and investigative agencies need state-of the art technologies combined with traditional techniques to identify and rescue victims of child exploitation throughout the world. Investigators from one of our partner agencies are doing that, using Cobweb Technologies’ artificial intelligence (AI)-powered web investigation platform to search online data, as well as extract and analyze data from various digital sources – from the open, deep and dark we

Recent Success Stories that Found Child Exploitation Online

  • An online suspect who had been sexually exploiting minors and disseminating and selling CSAM online. The suspect deceived young boys into believing that he was a woman. Cobwebs’ web intelligence platform was used to analyze the online accounts which returned insight into his daily trends and patterns. Cobwebs also provided investigative teams with data from different pictures posted by the target. After using Cobwebs for a complete analysis, the person’s identifiable information was provided to investigators. This data allowed investigative teams to identify areas to set up and deploy surveillance teams. Because of these important insights, this suspect was arrested and is no longer able to exploit and sextort young boys.
  • Another example is a case involving the sale of minors on a leading online account. A trafficker had posted advertisements on that account with a phone number as the primary method of contact. An analyst who had not yet been trained on the Cobwebs platform first ran the phone number natively through various messaging apps. The most relevant result from that reverse phone lookup was the service provider details. This was passed on to law enforcement for further inquiry, but the number was found to be registered in an elderly person’s name which was unlikely the trafficker. A more experienced analyst then searched the number through the Cobwebs’ platform. This produced much more effective results, including details for other online accounts to which the number was registered. The Cobwebs platform helped analyze connections between persons of interest and presented the findings in a comprehensive view that investigators used to identify the trafficker and verify victims’ identities. Again, this led to an arrest and the rescue of multiple victims.
  • Finally, a law enforcement agency needed assistance with the identification of a suspect allegedly engaged in child sextortion. The victims were females as young as seven and eight years old. The target was using an online account to communicate with extremely young victims. Once the suspect connected with victims, he would manipulate and groom them until he was able to receive exploitation material from the victims. The suspect would then sextort the victim into providing additional content under the threat of releasing the content to their parents and friends.

Online investigators identified the suspect’s online account and other related accounts and ran them through Cobwebs, enabling them to pull a phone number from one of the accounts. After conducting additional OSINT research, investigators obtained information on who might be the owner of the phone number. This intelligence was submitted to the police and the suspect’s identity was later verified and he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of child sexual abuse material offenses.

Success Bringing Child Exploitation Victims Home

A field investigator was asked why Cobwebs is such an effective resource. “Cobwebs helps us monitor web data, it continuously extracts data, and triggers alerts. This is a great tool for providing real time updates and keeping track of our cases, but also allows us to work and focus on other things efficiently, while knowing that Cobwebs is continuously working in the background,” the OSINT investigator said.

These powerful stories are just a few that we receive daily from our partners and customers. We are proud that our tool can bring these predators to light and save young people from further victimization. If you have stories about how our solution positively impacted your investigation, please reach out. These success stories are what keep us motivated to continue our “OSINT for Good” mission.

Johnmichael O’Hare

Lieutenant Johnmichael O’Hare retired from the Hartford Police (CT) in 2018. His career elevated investigative units that specifically attacked narcotics and firearms violence. In 2013, he was tasked with creating a Real-Time Intelligence Center that could support critical functions & provide analytical and forensic back support. He currently serves as a Business Development/Sales Director with Cobwebs Technologies with a focus on Threat Network Identification & Interdiction in the Web Intelligence Realm.


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