Our Mission 

For more than a decade, the UMass Rescue Lab has been the premier computer science research group working to thwart Internet-based crimes against children.

Our mission is to rescue every victimized child

Our mission has several goals.

  • To research novel forensic methods and to build advanced tools for rescuing children that are sexually exploited;
  • To characterize empirically the extent of this crime, which evolves as the Internet changes, to inform strategy and policy;
  • And to collaborate with partners to ensure tools we build and trainings we create are available to investigators world wide and see wide deployment.

Thousands of children have been rescued from sexual abuse by investigators using our tools in every US state and over 40 countries. We have never charged for our tools or trainings. 

Our Role

All crimes against children should be investigated because all children deserve protection and rescue from abuse and justice for these crimes. But for decades, the number of perpetrators and the incidents of abuse has inundated the number of investigators and the resources they have been given. Further, investigators are in a continual arms race of technology with pereptrators. Perpetrators exploit the latest technology, originally designed for the privacy of law abiding citizens, to evade detection and prosecution. And perpetrators make use of the lastest platforms for social media, live streaming, and gaming to form relationships with children and groom them for abuse.  The capture of sexual abuse in images and video and their distribution on the Internet is a grievous harm. Such child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) often remain on the Internet for decades, representing a re-victimization into the child's adulthood as they are traded. 

UMass Rescue's mission is to provide the latest tools and insights for investigators. Our work for investigators includes methods and tools that:  provide global view of abuses; defeat software used by perpetrators to evade detection and capture; gather high-quality, forensically sound evidence.  We describe some of our work below.

Recent News

 

Projects and Activities

We have designed, evaluated, and deployed a number of projects that are used daily by law enforcement to investigate online abuse of children. Our work includes:

  • Novel tools for the pro-active investigation of file sharing networks. It has been shown many times over that  a high percentage of persons who download CSAM are also physically abusing children. Accordingly, investigations of CSAM distribution and posession by law enforcement often leads to the rescue of an abused child. In contrast with simply waiting for the abuse to be discovered and reported by a third party, these pro-active investigations of CSAM file sharing have a better chance of rescuing children who are silenced by fear, are invalids, or are so young that they are pre-verbal.
  • Novel tools for the pro-active investigation of darknets. Services such as Freenet and Tor are leveraged often by child abuse perpetrators of child sexual. Darknets host some of the most dangerous content and persons on the Internet. Our work on darknets has resulted in numerous breakthrough designs for rescuing children. 
  • Characterization of abuses. We have published numerous scientific studies that make use of years of empirical measurement. Understanding the extent of this crime -- over 1 million a month share known CSAM -- is critical for law and policy makers, law enforcment, industry, victims, and society.
  • Machine learning for images and video analysis. One of the most important tools for investigators is the ability to recognize new and old victims and to gather information from videos to help solve cases. 
  • Expertise for prosecution via courtroom testimony. We show up! We have testified as expert witnesses in many criminal trials across the US, lending our insight to critical matters in front of courts.
  • Testimony to commissions and expert working groups and Op-Eds to inform policy. For years, we have served on and testified to a varity of committess in the US and internationally. In 2008 we served on the Multi-state Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace. In 2011, we testified to the US. Most recently, we are members of the European Commission's group on Techical Solutions to Detecting Child Abuse. 

Get Involved

If you are a graduate student at UMass Amherst in Computer Science, you can get involved. Take our course CMPSCI 596E Machine Learning for Child Rescue in Fall 2020.

Lend Us Your Support

Our work is strictly non-profit and in direct cooperation with law enforcement that use our tools daily. Our work is a force multiplier: every research advance we make and every tool we deploy makes it easier and more efficient for investigators to rescue children world wide. We can use your support; please donate to UMass Rescue. All funds will be dedicated to supporting our staff for working on this problem. 

Funding

We are supported by the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Juvenille Justice and Deliquency Protection. 

Publications

We publish in top academic venues on topics related to child exploitation, digital forensics, and Internet privacy. 

Personnel