The recent SMART award round by Innovate UK has seen success for leading threat intelligence company Forensic Pathways Ltd and its academic partner Aston University (Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics).
The LEADS-ENGINE (Linguistically Enabled Analytic Dark Search Engine) project funded by Innovate UK will run for 18 months.
The project will develop innovative techniques for the detection and prediction of cybercrime and fraud on the dark web. The project will build on Forensic Pathways’ technology ‘Dark Search Engine’ (DSE), developed in 2016, and will provide clients with actionable intelligence they can use to significantly enhance their protection measures/systems.
The UK National Fraud and Cyber Crime Dashboard (NFB) shows that, to date in 2021, organisations have been impacted by 57,304 fraud-related cybercrimes, costing £637.4m. There has been a 64% rise in cyber attacks with the shift to remote/home working (mimecast.com).
While there are multiple dark-web monitoring tools/services, they lack the ability to automatically identify threats based on linguistic and behavioural patterns, which currently requires extensive manual analysis using techniques like Forensic Linguistics.
Forensic Pathways Limited (FPL), a Birmingham (UK) based SME has provided investigation, due diligence, threat intelligence/cyber security services for 21 years. In 2016 FPL developed Dark Search Engine (DSE), an automated crawler/scraper of the Tor .onion browser in order to provide an additional level of intelligence to companies wishing to monitor the dark web for the illegal sale of assets, bank details, client data and email accounts, for example. DSE has currently indexed over 55 million URLs, with the database updating every four hours. Previously IBM have quoted over 280 days before companies are aware of a data breach and the ability to know if data has been stolen within a short time frame significantly impacts on the cost to business.
Ben Leary, Director said “Companies are used to looking to the clear net (regular internet) for information on the businesses or individuals they want to do business with or want to go through M&A, however, the open web is just one half of the picture. They are also under significant pressure to protect their data and reputations”.
We have teamed with Aston University’s world-leading Forensic Linguistics Institute to enable us to go beyond the monitoring/alerting state-of-the-art by providing actionable intelligence and enabling the rapid identification of new threats, feeding into risk assessment tools and adding to a continually developing database of online fraud strategies and behaviours”.
Dr Emily Chiang of the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics said, “Dark-web crime occurs almost exclusively through language. As such, linguistic methods can help establish important information about individuals and communities engaging in criminal activities”.
This is the third successful Innovate UK award for Forensic Pathways and highlights the significant value in collaboration between business and universities. Both organisations are members of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
In 2020 Forensic Pathways completed an Innovate UK project with Huddersfield University and prior to that with Staffordshire University.
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