Aleph: Another Hidden Internet Indexing Service

January 23, 2019

Law enforcement and intelligence organizations have a new tool to navigate the Dark Web, the Mail & Guardian reports in, “French Start-Up Offers ‘Dark Web’ Compass, but Not for Everyone.” The start-up, called Aleph Networks, has developed a way to navigate the Dark Web, but they wish it to only be wielded for good. In fact, report writer Frederic Garlan, the company performs ethics reviews of potential clients and turns down 30-40  percent of the licensing requests it receives. We also learn:

“Over the past five years Aleph has indexed 1.4 billion links and 450 million documents across some 140,000 dark web sites. As of December its software had also found 3.9 million stolen credit card numbers. ‘Without a search engine, you can’t have a comprehensive view’ of all the hidden sites, Hernandez said. He and a childhood friend began their adventure by putting their hacking skills to work for free-speech advocates or anti-child abuse campaigners, while holding down day jobs as IT engineers. [Co-founder Celine] Haeri, at the time a teacher, asked for their help in merging blogs by her colleagues opposed to a government reform of the education system. The result became the basis of their mass data collection and indexing software, and the three created Aleph in 2012. They initially raised €200,000 ($228,000) but had several close calls with bankruptcy before finding a keen client in the French military’s weapon and technology procurement agency. ‘They asked us for a demonstration two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack,’ Hernandez said, referring to the 2015 massacre of 12 people at the satirical magazine’s Paris offices, later claimed by a branch of Al-Qaeda. ‘They were particularly receptive to our pitch which basically said, if you don’t know the territory — which is the case with the dark web — you can’t gain mastery of it,’ Haeri added.”

That is a good point. Garlan notes the DARPA’s Memex program, which is based on the same principle. As for Aleph, it is now working to incorporate AI into its platform. While the company’s clients so far have mostly been government agencies, it plans to bring in more private-sector clients as it continues to attract investors. Based in Pommiers, France, Aleph Networks was launched in 2012.

Cynthia Murrell, January 23, 2019

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