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New Tools that Meet the Challenges of Mobile Phones and VPNs in Child Sexual Exploitation Investigations

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $750,000)

This Category 1 project develops innovative and new investigative tools for law enforcement, prosecutors, and other professionals. These tools will help the law enforcement community and prosecutorial agencies overcome current technology-related investigative challenges such as efficiently and effectively parsing through digital evidence, expediting evidence collection and transferring of digital files, facilitating decryption, addressing mobile chat encryptions, automating data intelligence, and supporting ICAC case management. This program is authorized pursuant to the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115–141, 132 Stat. 348, 423).

The University of Massachusetts Amherst will address the issue of perpetrators using the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and hosting services that, unlike Internet Service Providers (ISP), purposefully do not keep records of assignment of an external IP address to a billed customer. In conjunction with VPNs, users are ever-increasingly using mobile devices (phones and tablets) to access the Internet, including file sharing networks. The applicant proposes to address the problems of VPNs and mobile devices by designing and deploying a series of novel technologies that they call RoundUp Mobile. De-anonymizing information can be obtained, broadly, in two ways. The first method is passive by obtaining records from third party web companies via court order. The applicant will train investigators on what information to seek, and they will build tools to analyze and leverage the information to obtain a perpetrator's real ISP-based IP. The second method is to actively obtain the information by interacting with the perpetrator's mobile phone through advertisements. The two methods have different legal processes and strategies that the applicant will define clearly for investigators. The deliverables for this project will include tools that allow law enforcement to de-anonymize perpetrators that hide behind VPNs and similar hosting services. Applicant will provide tools for passive and active cases, and systems to analyze and leverage results. All tools will be integrated into ICACCOPS servers, and training materials will be provided to trainers and investigators. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 26, 2018