Criminals today routinely use the internet to keep their criminal enterprises hidden from view. They may have a standard profile on social media that most of the world sees, but several others that are hidden so it's difficult to track their nefarious activities.
"A Google search will only cover 10% to 15% of the web, what's called the surface web," says Cobwebs Technologies North America Managing Director Eyal Bachar. He says the company creates "AI-powered web intelligence solutions to make the web a safer place" by allowing law enforcement officers and crime analysts to uncover criminals' publicly available yet hidden profiles and communications lurking in the deep, dark web.
"Unfortunately, the ability to search manually and retrieve the relevant pieces of info at the right time is becoming an unrealistic task for crimefighters," says Bachar. "This is where Cobwebs' solutions come into play."
Cobwebs' Tangles solution lets an officer type into the system's search bar any kind of a lead such as a phone number or social media handle and find the identity of the person it's linked to as well as other unknown addresses and profiles found by searching across the open, deep, and dark web. "It brings together a unified picture of the person," says Bachar.
Johnmichael O'Hare became very familiar with Cobwebs Technologies as a lieutenant with the Hartford (CT) Police Department. Now retired, he works for the company itself as sales manager. "This works across all law enforcement investigations," says O'Hare. "For child trafficking investigations, for example, this can be used to identify people at risk and find the phone numbers and other identifiers in websites that replaced Back-Page. The solution will glean the relevant info quickly to identify people's groups and cliques. You can see who is working in concert with each other on criminal enterprises." He says what used to take him three weeks to find now takes 10 minutes, and the system presents the information in graphs and other images so it's easy to visualize the links.
While Cobwebs Technologies' Tangles tool can also search for information about possible crimes before they happen. "We're setting up notifications," O'Hare explains. "If you want to know if somebody is talking about a certain event, you can upload a dictionary of keywords, even the location around a certain event, so you can be notified when a threat is made."
Monitoring for keywords such as "manifesto" and the names or places of previous mass shootings can help officers pinpoint people planning similar attacks on special events, schools, or other targets. Tangles uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to search for patterns in images, across different languages, and in various channels and chatrooms in the open and dark web incorporating the keywords and generates alerts to notify officers of potential threats extremely quickly.
"It's simple and made to be used by anyone," says O'Hare. "After one hour of training, you're off and running." Cobwebs provides training in person or remotely.
The company will set up the system with either cloud or on-premises service, depending on agency preference. The solution is designed to be very secure, and can be customized with specialized search capabilities for individual investigative teams, if needed. Meeting departments' needs is important to the company, Bachar says. "We want to make this universe a safer place by supporting law enforcement with the right technology."