Intelligent Systems Division

Feature Story

DIG Sheds Light onto the Dark Web’s Shadows

Spring 2016
by Brendan McNally, USC Viterbi Magazine

ISI’s Craig Knoblock and Pedro Szekely help connect the dots on gun traffickers

It isn’t at all surprising that so much of the illegal weapons trade now takes place on the Dark Web, the shadowy parallel Internet system where criminals operate vast, untraceable, anonymous marketplaces for  outlawed goods and services. Gunrunners, whether global or just down the block, thrive in anonymity.

They usually steer clear of meeting customers in person and never take even remotely traceable payments. Until now, it was nearly impossible for law enforcement agencies to fight the booming illegal gun market, but that is about to change.

Craig Knoblock and Pedro Szekely of USC Viterbi’s Information Sciences Institute and the Department of Computer Science have developed DIG, or Domain-specific Insight Graphs. This groundbreaking, cloud-based  analytical tool is part of Memex, a special browser developed by DARPA to help law enforcement enter the heretofore unsearchable Dark Web to find, extract and correlate the hidden information gunrunners and other traffickers inadvertently leave behind.

Memex is now being tested by six police departments and law enforcement agencies, which, according to Knoblock, could expand to as many as 200 by the end of 2016. Memex's early successes have led Manhattan  District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to describe it to "60 Minutes" as "Google on steroids."

"The DIG software is being used by several law enforcement agents to investigate human trafficking cases, but its potential is equally strong in thwarting and catching gunrunners," Szekely said.

Memex needs to be powerful because the full Internet, beyond the “surface web" that most of us never get beyond, is a vast ocean of data, where conventional indexing and searching doesn't work. That's because the data is either too obscure, too vast or, in the case of the Dark Web, because it is encrypted and kept inside a private "anonymity network."

There are approximately 300 million guns in the U.S., according to a recent Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms study. Each year, half a million are stolen. They used to get sold in backrooms and empty parking lots. Now they're sold on the Dark Web, experts say.

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News

Farshad Kooti is Newest ISI Ph.D.

August 9, 2016

On July 27, 2016, Farshad Kooti executed what his advisor Kristina Lerman calls “a masterful job” of defending his dissertation, “Predicting and Modeling Human Behavioral Changes Using Digital Traces.”  Emilio Ferrara, who also participated, echoed that sentiment.

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Yolanda Gil elected AAAI President

August 3, 2016

Yolanda Gil has been elected president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the world’s premiere organization of AI researchers.  A AAAI fellow since 2012, Yolanda will be the organization’s 24th president and its fourth female leader when her term begins in two years. Until then she will serve as President-Elect.

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Welcome to our 2016 Summer Intern and visitors

July 12, 2016

Nada Aldarrab

Nada Aldarrab is a graduate student at USC, working on her thesis under the supervision of Prof. Kevin Knight. She is currently working on the decipherment of historical documents (joint project with Uppsala University, Sweden). Read More

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Feature Story

DIG Sheds Light onto the Dark Web’s Shadows

Spring 2016
by Brendan McNally, USC Viterbi Magazine

ISI’s Craig Knoblock and Pedro Szekely help connect the dots on gun traffickers

It isn’t at all surprising that so much of the illegal weapons trade now takes place on the Dark Web, the shadowy parallel Internet system where criminals operate vast, untraceable, anonymous marketplaces for  outlawed goods and services. Gunrunners, whether global or just down the block, thrive in anonymity.

They usually steer clear of meeting customers in person and never take even remotely traceable payments. Until now, it was nearly impossible for law enforcement agencies to fight the booming illegal gun market, but that is about to change.

Craig Knoblock and Pedro Szekely of USC Viterbi’s Information Sciences Institute and the Department of Computer Science have developed DIG, or Domain-specific Insight Graphs. This groundbreaking, cloud-based  analytical tool is part of Memex, a special browser developed by DARPA to help law enforcement enter the heretofore unsearchable Dark Web to find, extract and correlate the hidden information gunrunners and other traffickers inadvertently leave behind.

Memex is now being tested by six police departments and law enforcement agencies, which, according to Knoblock, could expand to as many as 200 by the end of 2016. Memex's early successes have led Manhattan  District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to describe it to "60 Minutes" as "Google on steroids."

"The DIG software is being used by several law enforcement agents to investigate human trafficking cases, but its potential is equally strong in thwarting and catching gunrunners," Szekely said.

Memex needs to be powerful because the full Internet, beyond the “surface web" that most of us never get beyond, is a vast ocean of data, where conventional indexing and searching doesn't work. That's because the data is either too obscure, too vast or, in the case of the Dark Web, because it is encrypted and kept inside a private "anonymity network."

There are approximately 300 million guns in the U.S., according to a recent Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms study. Each year, half a million are stolen. They used to get sold in backrooms and empty parking lots. Now they're sold on the Dark Web, experts say.

Read More

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Events

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are open to the public.

Aug 30 Fei Sha, UCLA Department of Computer ScienceAI Seminar

Large-scale Zero-Shot Learning

11:00am - 12:00pm PDT
Sep 07 David Kale, USCAI SEMINAR

Computational Phenotyping: Combining Big Data, Flexible Models, and Domain Knowledge

11:00am - 12:00pm PDT
Sep 15 Rudi Studer Institutes AIFB/KSRI, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany & FZI Research Center for Information Technology at KIT, Karlsruhe, GermanyAI Seminar

Flexible Management of Event Processing Applications for the (Industrial) Internet of Things

11:00am - 12:00pm PDT
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