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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Welcome to our 2016 Summer Intern and visitors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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). Her research interests include natural language processing, machine learning, decipherment and machine translation. 

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Two ISD Summer Students Recognized as this year's Director's Interns

Beginning this year, ISI has awarded the recognition of Director’s Intern to a small number of outstanding individuals participating in the summer internship program.  The ISI Director’s Interns Committee is pleased to announce that Laura Alessandretti and Keith Burghardt have been selected as this year’s Director’s Interns.  

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NPR reports on computer-generated poetry created by ISDers

NPR featured a sonnet submitted by Marjan GhazviniNejad, Xing Shi, Yejin Choi, and Kevin Knight of the USC Information Sciences Institute that won a competition calling for computer-generated poems to fool judges. Judges were given 10 sonnets and asked to distinguish those that were "human generated” from those that were "machine generated.” Observer Business and Tech also mentioned the competition and featured the poem.

The competition was originally reported on here.

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See More Stories »

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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