Fortunately, help is here. In this article, we handpicked the top OSINT tools for combating crime on the Dark Web in 2023. The solutions listed can significantly enrich investigations by deanonymizing criminals, extracting relevant insights, and mitigating the dangers associated with the darknet. Note: all OSINT tools for the Dark Web can fit into any existing workflow and work best when combined with other intelligence methods.
So, let’s get straight to the point.
Ways to Use OSINT Tools on the Dark Web
As criminals constantly try to hide their traces, the darknet is an attractive option for many. With specialized browsers like TOR providing strong encryption, tracking malicious activities becomes challenging but still possible. Specialists equipped with OSINT tools can detect digital footprints and uncover crucial clues for their investigations. Keeping this in mind, let's see what open-source intelligence solutions can reveal.
Monitoring of Dark Web Forums
The Dark Web is a treasure trove for threat intelligence. Many hidden platforms are serving as meeting spots for malicious groups. Experts estimate that around 53k extremist groups use the darknet to plan attacks and raise funds for their operations through drug markets, scams, and more. A recent example from 2015 — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is believed to have raised $23M in Bitcoin in one month through the Dark Web.
However, the Dark Web is also the preferred space for hacker groups. Many forums focus on planning and executing cyber attacks on companies and individuals. Surprisingly, 90% of posts on underground forums come from customers looking to hire hacking services. With the right tools and appropriate OSINT know-how, it’s possible to deanonymize malicious actors, collect their digital footprints, and prevent potential cyber or terror attacks.
Tracing Illicit Transactions from Crypto Mixers
In one of our previous articles, we mentioned that blockchain solutions are in demand for money laundering. One of these, crypto mixers (or tumblers), are platforms that take large transactions and break them up into tiny transfers. Such interference can significantly obscure the money flow. Recent reports show that in 2022, money from illicit addresses made up 23% of funds that mixers received (in contrast, it was 12% the previous year).
While breakthroughs in demixing crypto tumbler transactions can soon make these services more difficult to use, it’s not the case yet. Official figures reveal that mixers are more popular than ever, with $51.8M worth of crypto going through these services in April 2022. To complicate the matter more, many Decentralized Finance (DeFi) projects aim to replace tumblers, which can result in new challenges for investigators when dealing with financial crimes. Luckily OSINT tools can trace transfers through mixers, which enables investigators to deanonymize criminals.
Tracking the Sale of Illegal Goods
The Dark Web is home to a lot of illicit things. One of the most famous (or infamous) goods on the platform is drugs. This was highlighted in 2023 when investigators brought down Monopoly Market and seized $53.4M, 850 kilograms of drugs, and 117 firearms in raids across several countries. However, combating criminal marketplaces is extraordinarily time-consuming and usually spans multi-year investigations. In such cases, OSINT solutions provide an edge for specialists, as they can significantly boost productivity and cut down on time.
Another global concern connected with the Dark Web is the distribution of child abuse material. In 2022, the US National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) received 32M reports of such cases. Sadly, many encrypted underground websites share or sell videos of child exploitation worldwide. However, the developments are not all bleak, as Europol assisted in taking down the notorious “Boystown” darknet forum in Germany, infamous for sharing child abuse content and having 400k registered users. Many agencies worldwide use OSINT solutions to put an end to such platforms.
Top 7 OSINT Tools for Dark Web Investigations
There are many moving parts when investigating the Dark Web, which creates many challenges. That is why experts employ various tools to handle the workload. Meet our list of the top OSINT tools on the Dark Web we compiled for different use cases. From deanonymizing criminals to gathering evidence for an investigation, these solutions can help boost existing workflows.
Our top pick is a full-cycle, standalone OSINT platform. With access to more than 500 open sources and 1700 search methods, Crimewall allows investigators to thoroughly scan and analyze both the Surface and the Dark Web to deanonymize suspects and get a complete picture of the investigation.
- Analyze users' activity on Dark Web forums and detect illegal goods sold on the darknet marketplaces.
- Deanonymize criminals by cross-referencing facts with diverse data types, including emails, aliases, PGP keys, IDs, phone numbers, vehicle registrations, bank accounts, cryptocurrency addresses, and more.
- Speed up workflows with ML-powered features such as image recognition, object detection, language translation, sentiment analysis, and geospatial analysis.
- Identify cybersecurity infrastructure weaknesses by enhancing penetration tests with open data models.
- Transform complex data and map out connections into clear and simple graphs.
- Complete the entire puzzle of an investigation by accessing a vast range of sources, such as social media platforms, messengers, blockchains, corporate data, TOR, I2P, chat platforms, ransomware blogs, gaming message archives, paste sites, and more.
The second tool is focused on uncovering all the hidden elements of the Dark Web. With the robust scanning functionality, users can monitor, browse, and stream content in near real-time from the Deep Web, darknet, and authenticated chat platforms.
- Access to comprehensive and continuous darknet data with over 400M websites, forums, marketplaces, and other hidden services.
- Notifications about critical data appearing on the Dark Web due to "always on" monitors and alerts.
- Threat intelligence services deliver actionable insights into cybercriminal activities and potential risks within the Dark Web ecosystem.
- Visualization capabilities allow users to map connections, identify relationships, and better understand the darknet landscape.
- Functions to track cryptocurrency transactions, look up forum posts, infrastructure registrations, and more.
- Data enrichment capabilities allow users to augment collected evidence with additional contextual information for enhanced analysis and insights.
The third pick is a solution by Authentic8, which focuses on mitigating the risks of researching shady online spheres. As a secure web browser environment built for researchers and analysts, the tool prioritizes safeguarding against malware and improving privacy when exploring the Web.
- Provides secure web browsing on the Surface and Dark Web by isolating sessions in a cloud-based container, meaning the user’s device is completely protected from viruses.
- Follows a Zero Trust model that minimizes the risk of malicious code or web-based attacks compromising the user's system or network.
- Helps protect anonymity and privacy by masking the IP address and preventing websites from tracking online activities, benefiting individuals who want to maintain a higher level of privacy while browsing the web.
- Incorporates data loss prevention measures to stop sensitive information from leaving the controlled browsing environment, protecting against accidental security compromises or unauthorized data exfiltration.
- Offers centralized policy management capabilities, allowing administrators to define and enforce browsing rules across the organization, maintain consistent security standards, and control access to specific websites or resources.
- Seamlessly integrates with other tools and technologies, enhancing workflows and strengthening cybersecurity postures.
Next is an advanced search engine designed to provide access to a wide range of data sources on the Internet, including the Deep and Dark Web. Intelligence X allows users to search and analyze email addresses, phone numbers, and more to better understand digital footprints for enhanced decision-making.
- Enhances search capabilities by allowing users to explore specific data points or keywords across diverse indexed sources, including websites, forums, social media platforms, and more.
- Enables efficient handling of large datasets or item lists for processing and analysis, empowering investigators with streamlined bulk information management.
- Indexes and grants access to darknet data, enabling comprehensive search and analysis of content from hidden services and illicit marketplaces on the Dark Web.
- Employs visualizations and analytics features to aid users in understanding and exploring data patterns, connections, and relationships, facilitating thorough investigations.
- Offers an API that empowers developers and integrators to create custom applications and seamless integrations.
- Facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing by allowing the exportation of search results and findings for further analysis or sharing with team members, enhancing workflows and collective intelligence.
This powerful intelligence platform empowers organizations to gather, analyze, and act on critical information from the Clear and the Dark Web. The tool provides comprehensive monitoring capabilities and real-time alerts to stay informed about emerging threats and incidents.
- Automated scanning features pinpoint vulnerabilities and potential threat actors 24/7, providing a comprehensive view of an organization's security landscape.
- Data is collected from all public online sources, including social media, blogs, forums, alternative social channels, classifieds, paste sites, deep web sites, and Dark Web sources.
- Validation, identity resolution, and dissemination alerts are triggered when a threat is discovered, facilitating prompt response by the teams.
- Targeted intelligence gathering is enabled through custom keyword tracking and boolean search terms.
- Geo-location tools enhance the data context of investigations.
- Investigative tools such as targeted monitoring, threat intelligence management, visualization, sentiment analysis, and threat connectivity empower users.
The following solution is a robust web capture tool designed for investigative professionals. To streamline specialists' workflow, Hunchly helps users backup, organize and search for web pages and social media profiles encountered throughout the inquiry process from both the Surface and Dark Web.
- Automatic capture of web pages the user browses that preserves the original content and timestamps.
- Efficient data management and analysis are enabled by organizing information into cases and timelines.
- Direct addition of annotations and notes to captured web pages facilitates collaboration and provides a record of insights and findings.
- Extracted metadata, including IP addresses and location information, provides additional context and insights.
- Powerful search capabilities can quickly find specific information within the captured data.
- Generation of comprehensive reports assists in packaging evidence, ensuring proper documentation for legal or investigative purposes.
Last but not least, this cutting-edge cybersecurity platform provides comprehensive threat intelligence and monitoring capabilities across the Surface and Dark Web. Darkscope’s tool enables organizations to stay one step ahead of malicious actors by identifying system vulnerabilities, protecting critical assets, and responding to cyber incidents.
- Detect and monitor users and infrastructure weaknesses that pose a high risk to an organization’s security.
- Identify and solve SSL and DNS configuration errors that could leave systems vulnerable.
- Scan and analyze domains and subdomains for potential security risks.
- Monitor domain name variations to prevent phishing attacks and brand impersonation.
- Keep track of products and services across the web to identify any unauthorized use or fraudulent activity and social media platforms to identify mentions, analyze sentiment, and detect any potential security threats or reputation risks.
- Monitor external network connections for suspicious or unauthorized access attempts and receive alerts when a threat is detected.
And that’s our list of top OSINT tools for Dark Web investigations! While these solutions will be most effective when combined with other software, our list is an excellent starting point for building a practical investigative base. For more OSINT knowledge, be sure to sign up on our blog.