Organized Crime is a threat to our National Security
Various countries and states have recognized organized crime as being a threat to their National Security, or very close to. For instance, here in Canada the RCMP’s top Mafia-hunter advised that the Mafia organization called the ‘Ndrangheta had been raised to a “Tier 1” National Threat.
It is well known that the US Government has the ability to eavesdrop in our voice and fax communications. First was Echelon, a spy system that was shared by the US with other allied countries. It was capable of recording conversations that could be reviewed at will. Following this was Mystic, which was capable of recording an entire country’s communications and storing them for 30 days – this is only limited by the storage capacity of the Department currently running the project!
In some cases, collected information was used to help detect or determine those responsible for, or having knowledge of, terrorist attacks. This was determined through an examination of telephone calls made prior to the attack – ‘spikes’ in the number of, or location of, telephone calls made around the globe.
But now it is known that the US Government has been tracking communications since the early 1980’s, at first primarily to track the drug cartels, and then later to help with on-going high level investigations, and now terrorist activities.
Movement to Internet Based Communications
But just as with us, organized crime has also expanded on its capabilities and tech savvy. They have moved away from telephony communications and now focus on Internet tools – using chat, instant messenger, and other forms of communications.
Building Custom Applications / Tools
It is known that Terrorists, of which Organized Crime is becoming partnered with, is using tools such as GMail, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter to communicate through. As well, a short while ago it was found they were using their own “customized” tools to communicate. Terrorists created an encrypted email application called “Mohahedeen Secrets”, a mobile app called “Tashfeer al-Jawwal”, and an Android-based news app called “Alemarah”.
Considering the longevity that Organized Crime has had, and their long-term and stable profits, I wonder if they have also done the same? If so, how would you detect new forms of digital communications? Or find ‘hidden messages’?
Detect Hidden Data / Information – A Partial Solution
In an attempt to instantiate a system to help thwart these types of threats, Darpa created Memex, which serves to index information that is not currently being indexed by search engines. While a step forward, this has done only a little in the ability to map out the Internet, and bring to light some criminal activity (that could have been detected via other means). The real question becomes, “How do we find Organized Crime’s networks, network traffic, and messages on the Internet”?
Potential Full Solution
The NSA can break almost any data encryption methodology currently in use today. Even the anonymity and IP protection provided by TOR has been compromised. Considering the credible threat Organized Crime provides, I wonder if we should monitor, or better yet record the data present on the Internet and analyze it to see if there are any data patterns (representing information), hidden messages, or new communication methodologies being employed by Organized Crime to facilitate hidden communications in “plain sight”?
While the information would still need to conform to a standard TCP/IP packet, the data inside could yield anything. You could mount sniffers on routers functioning on the backbone of the Internet and use analytical software to detect new communication methods. You could extract the data in the packets and reconstruct the full data stream, to then apply pattern recognition to find hidden messages / meanings in larger data segments.
I am proposing that we create an AI that is capable of reviewing ALL of the information available on the Internet and bring to our attention only that information that is suspect for review. Of course, the response of the review would serve to ‘fine tune’ the system – serving to improve the systems ability to detect patterns or information that is meant to be hidden from us. I don’t think this would constitute a breach of privacy, as any data would only be read by an AI application – which would only be reviewed should the system detect something.
Putting perspective on this – we are at a disadvantage that must be reversed. Having the same fiscal resources, yet without the limitations imposed by a dependent public (health-care, transportation, education, etc.), Organized Crime is able to spend more money on the research of technologies that invade our privacy, gather our information, and use it to their advantage. Of course, taking advantage of the same computer exploits as Nation States, they would also be able to infiltrate our communications networks – just as we do them.
I wonder if they are also holding back on the development of privacy defeating technologies, showing us the same respect that we seem forced to show them???