OSINT Technology Impacts Recovery of Victims in Human Trafficking Cases

February 24, 2022

When OSINT investigation methodology is employed in transnational human trafficking investigations, the impact is immediate. Human trafficking victims are identified quicker, investigations are accelerated, resources are swiftly deployed and suspects are quickly identified using irrefutable electronic evidence.  Through our partnership with Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), Cobwebs Technologies been able to help identify victims in cases quickly, bringing them home before any further trauma can occur.

Recently, O.U.R. investigators leveraged the power of Cobwebs Technologies during an international human trafficking investigation involving two females who were victims of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Their photos were distributed through the dark web, obscuring their faces, making identification difficult. A suspect in the case was identified by O.U.R. investigators, but investigators had trouble positively identifying the victims of the CSAM images. As a result of a five-month long investigation, O.U.R. believed they knew who the victims may be, but could not find evidence to tie the suspect to these two girls.

Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking

Using Cobwebs technology, O.U.R. investigators, were able to identify all online accounts associated with the suspect and possible victims. Using the Cobwebs Technologies platform, online account was identified as possibly tied to this investigation. A comparison was done between the CSAM photo and photos found online from the publicly viewable account. Based on the placement of identifiable marks seen in the publicly viewable photos posted online, and the identifiable marks seen in the CSAM images, (and other direct evidence tying the suspect to this victim), the victim was positively identified. The suspect turned out to be a convicted sex offender from another country. In addition, the second victim was also identified through this online account.

The evidence developed via the Cobwebs platform is critical to the prosecution of this previously convicted sex offender for human trafficking. After five months of diligent online research and investigation, the evidence gathered online identified the victims of this human trafficking case in under five minutes. This brought swift action by local authorities, taking another child predator off the streets.

About the Authors

Allison Sullivan

Allison Sullivan

Allison Sullivan is the Manager of Intelligence Analysis at Cobwebs Technologies. She previously spent over 15 years working in law enforcement as an intelligence analyst for three different agencies.

Elisabeth Halonen

Elisabeth Halonen

Elisabeth Halonen is a Web Intelligence Analyst with Cobwebs Technologies. Prior to her current role, she was a Criminal Intelligence Analyst at Wilmington (NC) Police Department and a Digital Fraud Investigator at Ethos Risk Services.

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