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Intelligence Intern Lenka Kocáková: The dark web and risk intelligence

About the author: Lenka is a risk intelligence intern at PRINCEPS Advisory. She holds a master's degree in Security Studies from Charles University, and a bachelor's degree in Foreign Languages and Cultures from the University of Economics in Bratislava, where she studied English and French.

Open-source intelligence

Risk intelligence involves the discovery of risks, assessing their likelihood, and implementing measures to eliminate them. One of the key methods in risk intelligence is the gathering of open-source intelligence (OSINT). OSINT refers to collecting and analysing openly available information on individuals and organisations. PRINCEPS Advisory conducts a large portion of its OSINT research using online sources – from public records to social media, to the deep web and dark web – which frequently reveal information that is not easily accessible to non- professionals. Subsequently, such information is gathered and processed for risk intelligence purposes.

The dark web

The dark web is a hidden part of the internet which can only be accessed with the help of a specific software, such as TOR. It has justifiably gained a negative reputation for hosting illicit activities; indeed, it presents multiple risks to businesses. Perhaps most importantly, the dark web is frequently used to sell stolen data. Hence, it is essential to monitor dark web content in order to prevent or mitigate the risks it may pose. Moreover, some businesses are especially susceptible to cyber thefts as they do not have proper security measures in place, and often do not realise they could be victims of dark web criminals. Such risks can be revealed by skilled analysts, who access the dark web by using specially developed tools to search for possible leaked credentials, passwords, or other corporate data. True, the dark web is often used for illicit activities. But it is equally true that it is not used with malign intentions alone. On the contrary.

Risk intelligence investigators access the dark web to accumulate data unavailable on the surface web. When approached by professionals, the dark web can reveal valuable information which later informs non-financial due diligence and political risk intelligence reports.

Furthermore, people frequently use the dark web to log into social media sites in countries where the platforms are blocked. Similarly, some governments block news websites, hence the dark web is often accessed by individuals attempting to bypass such censorship. Since the dark web provides a user with anonymity, it is frequently accessed by individuals in authoritarian regimes, journalists, activists, or whistle-blowers, who intend to conceal their identity. It is important to note that visiting the dark web in the EU is not illegal unless used for criminal activities. In fact, as I have already mentioned, many investigators and anti-criminal groups passively collect data from the dark web to identify perpetrators.

The dark web and risk intelligence

The dark web plays a significant role when it comes to collecting intelligence by security specialists, law enforcement, or analysts. While accessing the dark web is not always easy or safe for regular users, joining its tools with the necessary expertise to translate raw data to intelligence allows professionals to uncover previously inaccessible information. By incorporating this practice as a standard component of its risk intelligence research, PRINCEPS provides deep and unique insights into the subject matters at hand.

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