Sunday 22 April 2018

Bitcoin transactions are being monitored on the dark web thanks to this company

Guy Mor (l) and Ran Geva
Guy Mor (l) and Ran Geva

Louise Kelly in Israel

Bitcoin transactions are being monitored on the dark web with the help of a new tool launched by an Israeli start-up.

Webhose has fine-tuned crawling technology that collates data from a number of different online verticals into a structured format for the end user.

With news sites, blogs and message boards the original sectors mined for information, media analysts and brand monitoring firms globally have already utilised this resource.

But, with the recent launch of the Dark Web product, the firm's clients have expanded to include cyber security organisations, money laundering (ML) firms and law enforcement agencies.

Ran Geva
Ran Geva

Co-founder Ran Geva told Independent.ie that Webhose's data feed on the TOR network provides coverage of millions of pages – and thousands of new sources are being discovered and added daily.

"There is some legal content there; some mainstream sites are going to the dark web just to offer their data to Chinese and Iranian and people that have no access otherwise.

"But then you have all of the illicit marketplaces – so lots of drugs, weapons, illegal porn, fraud, people offering to sell identities, credit card information."

Another piece of information that Webhose is picking up on its crawl is the references to bitcoin transactions, data that is becoming increasingly coveted by ML companies and risk management companies.

"People are putting their Bitcoin wallet or cryptocurrency transaction details on message boards. Having this information can assist those companies to establish transaction relationships or interesting trails of data that can be followed," said Mr Geva.

"And sometimes there are companies that just want to move the information from the dark web to the visibile web to try and expose that hacker."

Tel Aviv-headquartered Webhose is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Mr Geva and Guy Mor, who came from backgrounds in technology, data mining and product development.

Their original client base of mainly brand monitoring companies quickly changed to AI machine learning, finance companies, advertising firms, cyber security, ML firms and law enforcement when they expanded their product offering. The technique across all verticals, however, remains the same.

"It's not easy to collect data and do it in an affordable and scalable way; it's not only about the collection but also making it unified in structure. If we crawl an article we will construct the article body, the date, the title, the author, the comments; it's not just a dump of the web – that's easy,” said Mr Geva.

"We then store this data in our own repositories where companies using an API can filter only the data that they need."

Webhose attempted to get funding from a number of venture capitalists (Vcs) but were unsuccessful so "we bootstrapped and we're really happy that we did as we are very profitable right now."

Their employee base has grown from just three to 20 (developers, sales support and marketing) in three years, doubling the human capital in 12 months.

The firm also reports revenue of $250k monthly and plan to double that figure by year end.

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