UK police forces seek £1.5m software to help officers investigate the dark web

National lead agency the City of London Police is seeking to invest in a program that enables officers to search the hidden internet with a ‘granular focus’ on key areas

Police forces across the UK are to be given access to a software platform to support officers in investigating the dark web.

A procurement process has been launched by the City of London Police. The force houses the National Police Chiefs’ Council Cybercrime Programme – which serves as the “national strategic lead” for law enforcement’s response to cyber offences, according to a newly published commercial notice.

The City of London Police wishes to hear from suppliers that could provide “a dark web intelligence tool [as] software-as-a-service [and] to be used throughout the UK by police forces, regional organised crime units, the Serious Fraud Office, as well as other law enforcement agencies”.

The procurement notice says that the force is looking for a technology tool that will use web-scraping techniques to “provide an increased level of investigative capability… by providing dark web investigators with current data collections… from open, deep and dark web sources – including other sources such as leaked forums”.

The dark web uses internet connectivity but has been deliberately hidden from search engines and can only be accessed via special browsers. Users of the dark web can trade on the anonymity it offers to buy or sell illegal goods and services, or engage in other illicit activities.

The software sought by the City of London Police should also offer a “user-friendly web-based interface for the management of cases, and to access and utilise all investigative features, such as searching, tagging, reporting – this includes advanced features that enable a granular focus… such as timeline filtering, or the real-time monitoring of specific artefacts [or] keywords”.

The software will need to integrate with similar tools already deployed to help officers investigate blockchain environments.

The chosen provider will be appointed to an initial one-year contract, scheduled to commence around the start of the next fiscal year. The deal – which will be worth £500,000 a year to the winning bidder – can be extended for two further 12-month terms. To access the full detail of the tender and complete the bidding process, firms must sign a non-disclosure agreement. Bids are open until 8 January.

The contract notice said that the investment in a specialised dark web tool will enable the City of London Police to expand the efficacy of an already hugely successful initiative.

“The Cybercrime Programme has led in this area since 2018 and has delivered significant strategic and operational goals,” it said. “In many areas, the Cybercrime Programme has delivered world-leading initiatives and our approach over previous years has resulted in significant operational success, both in terms of successful criminal convictions, but also our ability to disrupt and tackle sophisticated, financially motivated cybercriminals.”

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Written by T. Miller

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