The dark web has been gaining popularity among people who desire to hide their identity as they surf through various items and engage in different kinds of business. The ability to safely operate with the help of the TOR browser has allowed the platform to harbor terrorists, murderer-for-hires, and illegal drug dealers. The anonymity offered makes it difficult for law enforcers to equally match the ability of the technology. One main challenge is that it is impossible to access the dark web with the usual search engines. Concerning this, a network of French engineers has created software that can help navigate through this anonymous platform more easily. The software helps to obtain a comprehensive view of all hidden websites.
The software can list multiple websites that offer the service of a searched item. The Co-Founder of Aleph Network, Celine Haeri, testified to this after searching for “Glock” on the software. A list of websites that sell this type of gun popped up instantly. The French engineers searched for Caesium 137, which is a radioactive element used in making a nuclear bomb. According to the Founder and CEO of Aleph Network, Nicholas Hermandez, 87 websites popped up for this searched item. He added that some websites advertise these elements based on positive reviews obtained from their customers. Since this software is very efficient in navigating the dark web, the group has had to be extra careful to not allow the software fall into the wrong hands. It was said that some licensing requests for the software had been turned down due to the company’s ethics committee reviews and input from its government’s client.
How it All Began
Hernandez and a childhood friend agreed to channel their computer skills to benefit society by helping the Anti-Child Abuse Campaigners and Free Speech Advocates. During this time, Haeri who then happened to be a teacher, consulted Hernandez and his friend to help merge the blogs of her colleagues. This project later resulted in a mass data collection along with indexing of pages according to a source. This initiative motivated the formation of the Aleph Network by the three of them. As of December 2018, the software had recovered 3.4 million stolen credit card numbers. The software had also indexed about 1.9 billion links for five years and also indexed 450 million documents across some 140,000 dark websites.
The function of this software aligns with the recent decision of authorities to crackdown on all illegal drug trafficking and firearms trade on the dark web. The Aleph Network has decided to incorporate artificial intelligence into the software to identify child abuse victims on the dark web and business copyright infringement.
The U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is said to have worked on a similar project, Memex. Just like the one developed by the French engineers, Memex can crawl deep into the realm of traditional search engines according to Chris White, the inventor, and will equally be a great benefit to law enforcers. Memex has become smarter to identify human trafficking on the dark web.
The revenue of the software developed by Aleph Network is said to have reached 660,000 Euros and it is expected to double in 2019. Also, Aleph has planned on adding more private companies to their rosters.
At one point in time, they had come close to bankruptcy after raising 200,000 Euros. It was then that the French Military Weapon and Technology Procurement Agency became their client and asked for a demonstration. According to Haeri, the agency was receptive to their pitch which states, “If you don’t know the territory — which is the case with the dark web — you can’t gain mastery of it.” Today, Hernandez compares his role to the ancient role of the “protector of the city” in Greek democracies, according to a report.
The software has one serious challenge. This challenge comes into play as more businesses and individuals use the software when no clear guidelines and efforts are made to control its use. It is said that the ever-growing number of users will possibly allow the software to fall into the hands of criminal organizations and hostile governments. When this happens, the very people whose operations are meant to be exposed by the software will instead control the software and make matters worse.