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Dismantling an International Human Trafficking Ring Using an AI-powered Platform

Organized crime organizations are diversifying to find additional lucrative lines of work. Especially when their main operations, such as the drug trade, are being cracked down on by authorities, they move into new areas such as human trafficking. National security agencies are trying to be on top of this, investigating the intricate networks of these crime organizations. Especially human trafficking has become lucrative for cartels since the pandemic has pushed millions of vulnerable people, who are looking for a way to better their lives, into poverty. Their activities are cross-border, making it even harder for national security to crack down on them.

A major national security agency was looking into one specific cartel suspected of being heavily involved in human trafficking. The investigators had the daunting task to not only unravel the intricate connections between cartel kingpins and members, but also to try and trace bank transfers, payments in cryptocurrencies, online conversations, “business” trips, and shell companies that were involved in or supported this multinational operation.

Due to the overwhelming amount of data to be collected and processed as quickly as possible, the national security agency opted to deploy our AI-powered WEBINT platform.

The tool, which uses national language processing (NLP) algorithms, scanned thousands and thousands of online publicly available data on deep and dark websites and message boards and came across a “how-to” guide from one of the cartel members. In it, he explained step-by-step how to transport human traffic across the border without being detected by authorities.

This guide was just the tip of the iceberg. Based on the parameters entered by the investigator, the platform collected and analyzed vast amounts of OSINT data, providing more valuable insights. Since cartel members, like all netizens, are heavy web users, it did not take our platform long to identify his fellow cartel members as well as cartel sympathizers. Some of them turned out to be the cartel’s customers – both domestically and across the borders.

The digital investigation also revealed the money transfers made on the dark web in cryptocurrencies by cartel members to buy recourses, such as trucks and containers, to ship their victims across the border. Their customers also paid for the human merchandise in cryptocurrencies on the dark web, giving the investigators another piece of the puzzle.

In the end, the national security agency got the full picture of the human trafficking operation of the cartel. Together with its sister security agencies in other countries, the whole international network was unraveled and in a coordinated action covering five countries, the offices, and premises of all the people involved in the human trafficking operation were raided. Arrests were made, and millions in cryptocurrencies were confiscated. Authorities also intercepted a transport on the way to a customer across the border, freeing 150 victims from appalling conditions.

In general, national security agencies have been cracking down on human traffickers using digital technology and the internet. Specialized cybercrime units and human trafficking task forces are cooperating across state lines and borders to put a stop to it. Traditionally, following up on a lead would involve manually combing through thousands, if not millions, of online data for information that could be useful. Since this process is time-consuming, tedious, and prone to human error, it is just too complicated to find answers.

That’s why an AI-based web intelligence tool is ideally suited to detect human traffickers to stop them and fight organized crime. Such a tool is designed to handle unstructured data, which is not presented in any of the familiar digital formats. For instance, it can quickly and effectively sift through millions of online information based on specific search terms and phrases. This enables investigators to concentrate on other activities, such as the dismantling of the crime network. Since a national security agency often needs to cooperate with other agencies abroad, an AI tool also allows investigators to get a global view. The tool’s NLP algorithms help investigators to decipher online messages that are in other languages.

Human traffickers will continue to innovate and find new and better ways to avoid detection. Using an AI-powered WEBINT platform, such as Cobwebs, is the best way to identify human traffickers in the fight to stamp out and prevent human trafficking.


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