The recent scavenging of public documents has shown that Law enforcement isn’t in the battle to stop Dark Net drug dealing alone. A section of the Department of Homeland Security has been paying contractors to monitor these Dark Net services; somewhere to the tune of $150,000.
The public records show an alarming increase in “threat intelligence” companies, all with the goal of providing corporate and government clients with the information acquired from hacking forums, drug markets, as well as other sections of the Dark Net.
Payments were issued to Flashpoint, a company that offers intelligence reports, API access to dark web data, and automated alerts; the company’s website showed. Flashpoint claims to use human analytics and forms of automation to monitor the internet, and its customers can access historical data in real time.
Flashpoint also advertises clients the opportunity to talk directly with analysts in order to get custom threat investigations and to take the analysis deeper in order to use what is most relevant to the company. Around August of 2014, the documents show the United States law enforcement agency, ICE had paid almost $149,000 for the critical requirement of data and analysis of illegal activity going on online. More so, it wanted special attention taken to any and all activity accessed through the Dark Net between September 2014, and August 2015. The document also suggested that ICE may have acquired Flashpoint’s services more recently as well.
Ice has taken credit for, and been involved in several Dark Net arrests and operations. They also lended a helping hand in the recent global awareness campaign set out as a way to show law enforcement still has a hand in the anonymity factor of the Dark Net. The group has helped in the arrest of a Dark Net vendor selling poison in 2014, and had a helping hand in busting a Dark Net hitman.
A spokesperson for ICE recently released this statement:
In order to protect the integrity of our investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) generally does not discuss law enforcement tools and techniques. The agency routinely works with the private sector to acquire tools that enable our agency to keep pace and stay ahead of evolving criminal activity that poses a threat to public safety and/or national security.
Flashpoint has a close relationship with law enforcement in general, but most notable the FBI. Flashpoint has received around $1.4 million dollars for testifying in trials as expert witnesses, and for assisting the FBI with investigations and acting as consultants for other agencies.
Records show that other US agencies have also ordered services from Flashpoint, including Citizenship and Immigration Services; which gave them $70,000 last year. The Secret Service has also dipped in the Flashpoint pot; in 2014 they paid for services rendered which totaled to $331,500. This past August, the IRS also contracted the help of Flashpoint, somewhere in the neighborhood of $65,000 for services rendered.
The records fail to indicate whether these services are strictly for Dark Net related cases, but it does point directly to Flashpoint services. Flashpoint has made it clear that they do have many clients in public, and the private sector as well; and that they are contracted for long, and short term work. However, flashpoint would not give out any of its client’s information.