What is Dark Web Monitoring and How Can it Power Cyber Investigations?

December 30, 2020

With every technological development the world has seen and with every evolutionary breakthrough, there have come secondary consequences that were not always foreseen. Just as the internet and social media have opened up a world of opportunities on so many levels, so have they been vulnerable to attacks from cybercriminals. Art imitates life, and activity on the internet mimics our social, societal spectrum.

The Origins of the Dark Web

The dark web was originally created by the United States Naval Research Laboratory to enable military units and field personnel to communicate online without being tracked and identified.

Today, the dark web is that part of the internet that is inaccessible to search engines and Google. As its name might suggest, the dark web has been home to a myriad of criminal activities. As these cyber researchers have ascertained, in a sample of 2,723 live dark web sites, 50% were related to criminal or illicit activity.

Dark web internet addresses commonly end in  “.onion” and are notorious for hosting online criminal marketplaces such as the infamous Silk Road – The first digital black market that hosted illegal drug and money laundering transactions using digital currencies. Silk Road was launched in 2011 and was shut down by the FBI in 2013.

Dark Web Monitoring – What is it?

Dark web monitoring tools powered by AI have evolved as the new generation of investigative tools to aid in forensic investigations, fighting fire with fire in the 21st century.

Dark web investigation tools can be used by law enforcement agencies to monitor the dark web using AI web intelligence software. This allows them to identify threat actors and malicious activity effectively, solve cases faster, stay ahead of threats, and enhance existing and offline investigations. Often, dark web forums which are hotspots for criminal activity, are encrypted with firewalls and additional technological tools to try and block dark web crawlers, and new techniques have been developed to break these barriers.

How does dark web monitoring work?

Criminal activity on the dark web includes identity theft, trading grounds for stolen personal information such as credit cards, bank account numbers, bank account passwords. Dark web monitoring tools involve crawlers powered by AI software that spend time in dark web forums and dark web social networks where stolen information is being sold and used maliciously. Once the crawler software picks up a match, the relevant financial and investigation authorities are notified.

What bodies stand to benefit from dark web monitoring?

Dark web monitoring is used by major governmental authorities to combat cybercrime and terrorism. Agencies like the FBI, Drug enforcement agencies, and Homeland Security use AI crime prediction software and dark web crawlers as a type of “neighborhood watch,” keeping their eye out for suspicious activities that may be part of a bigger case to solve.

Detectives and investigators often need to transform raw data into actionable intelligence. The Cobwebs web intelligence platform extracts relevant data from dark web sources such as online blogs, social networks, imported files, deep web data, and carries out big data analysis to reveal crucial links between threat actors’ locations, cyber footprints, and affiliations. Included in the intelligence insights is the wide spectrum of crawling ground. This enables important words and phrases to eventually become valuable leads.

Cobwebs crime detection and prediction intelligence platform

The Cobwebs web intelligence platform also provides a visual representation of cyber events, revealing a larger, graphically displayed picture as inter-connected dots of information that entail location data collection about specific targets.

This AI-based dark web monitoring technology connects the dots in a visual graph and gives actionable insights in the form of an automated report. This continual influx of threat actors and potential targets’ data is crucial for law enforcement and governmental authorities, anti-terrorist agencies, anti-money laundering detectives, and those officials combating illegal dark web drug trafficking.

In addition to providing real-time situational data of threat actor targets, the Cobwebs crime prediction software platform can aid legal authorities in staying ahead of “the game”. By integrating data across all web levels including the surface, deep and dark web, pattern analysis, NLP pattern recognition, and AI crime prediction technology allows law enforcement officials to detect, predict and prevent certain types of criminal activities.

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