How AI Has Shone a Light on the Usage of the Dark Web

The dark web is a mysterious and notorious place; an area where crime is rife, and criminals are protected by anonymity. So, how are crime fighters working to monitor and protect the general public?

The number of dark web risks posed by criminals in this corner of the internet are extensive. Not only are dark web users putting themselves at risk of getting involved in criminal activity, there are instances where businesses and organisations might be at risk too. Especially if sensitive data is somehow retrieved and sold, the impact of this could be catastrophic.

These days, police and organisations are working to automate dark web checks to track criminal activity and identify areas of exploitation. This is where Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has come in extremely useful in recent years. In this article, we’re going to take a look at these exciting new prospects, so don’t go anywhere…

4 Ways AI is Shining a Light on the Dark Web

Businesses Can Search for Potential Threats

For starters, AI is becoming an important element in helping businesses to search for potential threats to their data. Small and medium-sized companies, mostly in the health, finance, and education sectors, are investing in automation platforms that scan thousands of dark web pages daily for potential threats.

These potential threats are usually data breaches; wherein a malicious criminal has accessed their data and is exposing and selling it online. This can be extremely detrimental to any business, as not only can a breach of data cause untold damage to the brand image and finances. On top of this, it can cause a huge amount of mental and physical damage to the individuals whose data has been exposed.

The great thing about the use of AI in this regard is that any breaches in the system can be detected to avoid sensitive data being exposed online. After all, many cyber criminals will look to sell the information, without actually physically publishing it on the dark web. This way, an action plan can be formed to mitigate any further exposure of the data.

Businesses Can See if Their Data Has Been Infiltrated

Unfortunately, although some cyber criminals might not publish stolen data online, others might. This poses a huge amount of risk to the businesses affected, as well as the victims whose data has been published.

Many Artificial Intelligence providers offer a service where the Dark Web is scoured for markers indicating that company data has been exfiltrated. These providers then retrieve the data and sift through it to separate what’s important and what isn’t.

So, alongside being able to search for potential threats to business data, AI can also be used to identify data that has actually made it onto the dark web outright. With AI, if a breach is detected, the systems will proactively work to secure any possibly affected servers. They’ll also alert those who need to know so an action plan can be formed.

Helping to Speed Up Police Work

As we’ve seen, AI is the perfect solution for helping businesses to protect sensitive company and client data from being exposed. However, that’s not the only use. In fact, AI has also become an integral element in speeding up police work.

Prior to AI, police workers had to sift through the dark web manually to detect any criminal activity. This would take up hours and hours of valuable police time and funding. That said, AI allows the police to put their physical efforts into other important stuff, whilst AI files through the dark web in the background.

The thing about the dark web is that a lot of its uses are for intriguing yet legitimate forms of anonymous searching. However, AI tools with machine learning capability have the potential to develop a classification system which trains algorithms to ignore this legitimate usage, and target illegal material instead.

This cuts out valuable time in the process by pinpointing where the attention should be focused to stamp out online criminal activity. With this, the police force can not only gain an insight into what the dark web is being used for, but also how these criminals are using this information. Therefore, targeted approaches can be forged to avoid further dark web crime.

Catching Criminals and Protecting Civilians

Once this illegal information and usage has been identified, AI can then also be used to help catch these criminals, thus protecting innocent civilians from cybercrime. In fact, AI can trace patterns within the dark web, helping to track criminals along the way.

As we’ve seen before, the anonymity of the dark web means that uncovering the digital footprint of an online criminal can be tedious. However, AI-driven search engines are capable of sifting through infinite amounts of data to crack down on criminals in minimum amounts of time with limited resources.

For example, in 2019, the Home Office announced that catching paedophiles operating on the dark web has been made possible through AI. It can sift through the child abuse image database by searching “seized computers and other devices for indecent images of children quickly, against a record of 14m images, to help identify victims”.

Aspects of AI, like voice analysis and age estimation, may then be used to track down child abusers. Priti Patel, the home secretary, said “vile predators who prowl the internet abusing children are cowards who need to be caught and punished”, adding that the money would make sure “online paedophiles are no longer able to hide in the shadows preying on our society’s most vulnerable”.

AI is Changing the Face of Dark Web Activities

It’s clear to see that new developments in AI are changing the face of our knowledge of the dark web. Now, instead of manually scraping through reams and reams of dark web data, businesses and law enforcement can do so at record speeds.

This means they can not only discover when crimes are carried out, patterns can be detected which can put a stop to these crimes before they’re done. Technology is truly an amazing feat, and one which is helping us fight crime and protect peoples’ privacy every day.