Much of the lawful intelligence landscape is steady and predictable from year to year, even when it touches on extraordinary events such as the 2023 Hamas attack on Israel or 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Within limitations, investigation and analysis methods are largely unimpacted by the type and scale of the circumstances they are applied to, and law enforcement and intelligence agencies methodically gather evidence using established techniques.
While those tactics are systematic and well-proven, they operate against a shifting background of geopolitical and technological realities. As 2024 begins, an extraordinary context of trends and circumstances are poised to shape the near-term role of lawful and location intelligence in global events.
Geopolitical Shifts and Instability
Seemingly intractable conflicts continue to arise all over the world, including Syria’s ongoing civil war and refugee crisis, the war in Ukraine, and the conflict in Gaza, among many others. As civilians flee military, economic, and other adversity, authorized and unauthorized immigration grows. Border insecurity is already a major source of political instability in many countries, including the US. Desperate people may increasingly turn to human smugglers to help them across borders, exposing them to the dangers of human trafficking and other exploitation. Lawful and location intelligence tools are primary approaches to exposing and disrupting these crimes, but they will need to adapt to changes such as new regulatory guidelines that are prompting Google Maps, for example, to remove traditional investigative capabilities such as geofencing.
Such widespread human movement also creates changes in the digital landscape, introducing new apps that immigrants bring with them that may spread in their new communities. Such apps may be unfamiliar to local law enforcement, and the encrypted traffic from them can dramatically interfere with traditional lawful intelligence measures. Even known platforms and browsers like WhatsApp and Chrome are introducing “IP Protection” measures that route traffic through proxy servers to conceal the user’s IP address. SS8’s platform, including its enhanced protocol extraction engine (E-PXE) and powerful MetaHub data fusion solution, allows authorized parties to analyze this “dark” traffic to identify the app or browser, the time and place it is used, and the parties involved, bringing them under the purview of lawful intelligence to allow insights that would otherwise be lost.
Other sources of rising political instability are less explicitly international in nature. In 2024, US political elections are a central source of concern, as a catalyst for bad actors both international and domestic. Recent elections have seen a rising tide of interference that ranges from misinformation to intimidation and violence, a trend that many believe will accelerate in 2024. Perhaps the extremist groups so prominent in 2020 will escalate their violent responses to election outcomes they are unhappy with, creating unpredictable crises. As the election results become clear, lawful intelligence will play an instrumental role in protecting society from ill effects.
AI’s Rising Stature in the Technology Landscape
The current rise of AI is probably the most significant technological advance in the public imagination since the general adoption of the internet in the 1990s. Most of the ways these technologies are applied are responsible and legitimate, whether they are constructive or trivial, but bad actors are already adapting them to commit crimes and do harm.
AI-assisted crime is on the rise, and it takes many different forms. It can analyze cyber, physical, and operational weaknesses to overcome defenses. It can likewise help criminal organizations shore up their defenses against law enforcement. More dramatically, deepfakes that include realistic but fraudulent images and video that can portray embarrassing, explicit, misleading representations are on the rise and being used to harass people, destroy careers, and sway elections. So far, the regulations necessary to help analysts investigate AI-assisted crimes – and leverage AI tools – have not caught up with the technologies themselves, but as they do, advanced lawful intelligence solutions will be instrumental in identifying how, where, and by whom these crimes are committed.
To help investigators tease out insights from the massive and growing datasets available to them, AI will play a greater role in 2024 and beyond. Existing tools such as facial and number-plate recognition have become instrumental in interpreting data flows. Increasingly, data analytics is critical to extracting meaning from vast data too large for humans to efficiently process. SS8’s MetaHub helps unify these disparate, unstructured data sets so they can be consumed effectively for lawful intelligence.
Growing Potential for a Cyber Black Swan
Together with the digitalization of commerce, work, finance, and entertainment, digital fraud and conflict is increasingly prevalent, including among nation-states. An escalation of cyber warfare capabilities is underway by governments all over the world, with echoes of the 20th century cold war. In fact, there is some global consensus among the intelligence community that a “black swan” geopolitical event – unpredictable but with widespread consequences – may grow from these circumstances in 2024.
One scenario concerns new or expanded wars leading to cyberattacks on critical infrastructure that could create enormous social and economic damage or interfere with wartime logistics. For example, The Washington Post reports that Chinese military hackers are actively gaining control of US utilities, ports, and pipelines to disrupt or destroy them in the event of open conflict, highlighting current East-West tensions over Taiwan. Likewise, The New York Times writes that the CIA’s spending on China has doubled since the beginning of the Biden administration.
Uncovering such measures within US territory is the responsibility of the FBI and NSA. The NSA is authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to surveil non-Americans’ communications without a warrant. This controversial measure became infamous with Edward Snowden’s revelation in 2013 that it extends to Americans with whom those foreign parties communicate, and even to others those Americans communicate with. Section 702 is scheduled to expire in April 2024 unless reauthorized. The ability of lawful intelligence to help mitigate a destructive international black swan event in 2024 may hinge on the appropriate privacy revisions being made to allow that reauthorization.
The impact of the above trends is already being felt, and it will only increase as the further development of cloud tech enables faster rollout of 5G standalone networks. Despite their benefits, bad actors will inevitably use these technologies to spread hate and inflict damage. As technologies and data continue to grow, preventative measures and investigative techniques like social wires and AI-assisted lawful and location intelligence solutions will become more important to keep society safe.
About David Anstiss
David Anstiss is Director of Solution Engineering at SS8 Networks. He has been with SS8 since 2015 and has significant experience in critical network architecture technology and advanced data analytics. He currently works as part of the Technical CTO Group under the leadership of Dr. Cemal Dikmen and is responsible for leading engagement with both intelligence agencies and Communication Service Providers (CSPs) around the world. He has been instrumental in helping them transition to 5G, defining system requirements to meet regulatory compliance. As a member of ETSI, he represents SS8 to ensure the adoption of cloud-native infrastructure is met with industry best practices and to guarantee that compliance of lawful interception is maintained. Learn more about David here on his LinkedIn profile.
About Dr. Cemal Dikmen
As SS8’s CTO, Cemal plays an integral role in the company’s strategic direction, development, and future growth. A renowned expert and thought leader in the legal compliance and communications analysis domain, he has been a frequent speaker at various industry conferences over the past 10 years. Cemal holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering. You can learn more about Cemal on his LinkedIn profile by clicking here.
About Kevin McTiernan
Kevin has over 20 years of extensive experience in the telecommunications and network security industries. At SS8, Kevin is the VP of Government Solutions and is responsible for leading the vision, design, and delivery of SS8’s government solutions, including the Xcipio® compliance portfolio. You can learn more about Kevin on his LinkedIn profile by clicking here.
About SS8 Networks
As a leader in Lawful and Location Intelligence, SS8 helps make societies safer. Our commitment is to extract, analyze, and visualize the critical intelligence that gives law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and emergency services the real-time insights that help save lives. Our high performance, flexible, and future-proof solutions also enable mobile network operators to achieve regulatory compliance with minimum disruption, time, and cost. SS8 is trusted by the largest government agencies, communications providers, and systems integrators globally.
Intellego® XT monitoring and data analytics portfolio is optimized for Law Enforcement Agencies to capture, analyze, and visualize complex data sets for real-time investigative intelligence.
LocationWise delivers the highest audited network location accuracy worldwide, providing active and passive location intelligence for emergency services, law enforcement, and mobile network operators.
Xcipio® mediation platform meets the demands of lawful intercept in any network type and provides the ability to transcode (convert) between lawful intercept handover versions and standard families.
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