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Banking Tech Awards
4th December 2024
Royal Lancaster Hotel

Banking Tech Awards Finalist: The Knoble and LexisNexis® Risk Solutions - Project Umbra

The Knoble and LexisNexis® Risk Solutions have been selected as a finalist in the FinTech for Good by Financial Institutions category at the Banking Tech Awards 2022 for their project, Project Umbra.

The Knoble and LexisNexis® Risk Solutions

Project Umbra is a multi-stakeholder collaboration that creates a scalable, repeatable process to identify and reduce online child sexual exploitation (OCSE) modeled after Canada’s successful Project Shadow, which leveraged open source data to identify potential OCSE. Leveraging The Knoble Network, this collaboration brought together financial institutions, private sector solution providers regulators, non-profit organizations, and law enforcement with the goal of building further on Project Shadow’s learnings to determine if a more scalable, effective, and repeatable process for identifying potential OCSE could be created.

Founded in 2019, The Knoble Network is a nonprofit network of financial crime experts passionately fighting human crime. Its mission is to protect the vulnerable, including victims of human trafficking, child exploitation, scams, and elder abuse. It is making a difference by bringing together financial institutions, solution providers, law enforcement, financial services, and NGOs to fight human crime in a new collaborative way.

The Need is Urgent - The scale, severity, and complexity of OCSE is increasing at a faster pace than those aiming to tackle the activity can respond.

Referrals from industry and law enforcement partners are now reaching record highs.

This creates an urgent need for financial institutions, government, law enforcement organizations, NGOs, the technology industry, and other sectors to work together to step up their collective response.

In the shadow of the global pandemic, the U.S. emerged as the leading host of child sexual exploitation material. According to a report by the Internet Watch Foundation, the U.S. hosts 69% of online child sexual exploitation material – more than any other country – a 228% increase from 2021.

This exponential increase led The Knoble Network to initiate Project Umbra in June 2021, a ground-breaking project focused on bringing together financial institutions, solution providers, regulators, non-profits and law enforcement to create an effective, efficient and scalable process to better identify potential OCSE.

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

When combined with banks’ existing transaction monitoring and risk rating processes, data donated by LexisNexis® Risk Solutions to the project helped participating financial institutions more efficiently identify a manageable number of accounts that may warrant closer scrutiny and investigation, resulting in a scalable, repeatable process without overwhelming participating financial institutions with high alert volumes. "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 Umbra co-sponsor. “To deter the ever-growing 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.”

The scalable and repeatable methodology collaboratively developed by Project Umbra participants leveraged financial crime risk and due diligence data available in the market in combination with each participating bank’s own existing processes and OCSE-specific training for investigators. “The process collaboratively developed by Project Umbra participants, when applied to one bank’s portfolio, quickly identified 17 high risk accounts that warranted additional review within its customer base of five million,” said Tracy Manning, Director of Financial Crime at LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, and project co-sponsor. “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.”

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,” said Karen Arrabal, SVP 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 greatly assisting the way we solve global human issues. “Project Umbra has been an important collaboration of professionals and subject matter experts leveraging their tools and knowledge to address one of the most heinous crimes against society’s most innocent and vulnerable victims,” said Ian Mitchell, Founder and CEO of The Knoble. “Prioritizing the refinement of existing capabilities and processes to create an effective and scalable solution to the problems is inspirational and a credit to all those who have participated.” Financial Institutions and other ecosystem players who would like to learn more or join the fight by getting involved in future phases of Project Umbra can do so by visiting