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Meet ‘DarkBERT:’ South Korea’s Dark Web AI Could Combat Cybercrime

A team of South Korean researchers has taken the unprecedented step of developing and training artificial intelligence (AI) on the so-called “Dark Web.” The Dark Web trained AI, called DarkBERT, was unleashed to trawl and index what it could find to help shed light on ways to combat cybercrime.

The “Dark Web” is a section of the internet that remains hidden and cannot be accessed through standard web browsers. This part of the web is notorious for its anonymous websites and marketplaces that facilitate illegal activities, such as drug and weapon trading, stolen data sales, and a haven for cybercriminals.

How Does DarkBERT Function?

Currently, the DarkBERT is still in the works. The developers are currently working on the AI to adapt well to the language that might be being used on the dark web. The researchers will be training the model by crawling through the Tor network.

It has also been reported that the pre-trained model will be filtered well and deduplicated. Data processing will be incorporated into the model to identify threats or concerns from the expected sensitive information.

According to the team, their LLM was far better at making sense of the dark web than other models that were trained to complete similar tasks, including RoBERTa, which Facebook researchers designed back in 2019 to “predict intentionally hidden sections of text within otherwise unannotated language examples,” according to an official description.

“Our evaluation results show that DarkBERT-based classification model outperforms that of known pre-trained language models,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

According to the team, DarkBERT has the potential to be employed for diverse cybersecurity purposes, including identifying websites that vend ransomware or release confidential data. Additionally, it can scour through the numerous dark web forums updated daily and keep an eye on any illegal information exchange.

What’s next?

A lot has been going on as the DarkBERT is being developed. The researchers will be incorporating multiple languages into the pre-trained model. DarkBERT performance is expected to be better with using the latest language in the pre-trained model to allow the crawling of additional data.

South Korea is Testing Out an AI-based Gender Detector

The Seoul Metro announced its plans to pilot an AI-based gender detector program it developed, per South Korean outlet KBS as reported on April 20. 

The plan is slated to begin at the end of June and last for about six months, starting with the women’s restroom in Sinseol-dong Station. Plans for expansion will only begin once the reliability of the program is confirmed, the Seoul Metro said, per KBS.

The AI-based gender detector is able to automatically detect a person’s gender, display CCTV images in pop-up form, and broadcast announcements, KBS reported, citing the Seoul Metro.

According to KBS, citing the Seoul Metro, the system is able to distinguish gender based on body shape, clothing, belongings, and behavioral patterns.

Taking into consideration that most subway station restroom cleaners are currently women, the corporation will be putting the installation of the program in men’s restrooms on hold, per KBS.

But some people are skeptical about the program.

“Do you think all women look exactly the same? Are you asking male-passing women to not use the restroom?” reads a tweet

“Can installing this at the women’s restroom really stop men from coming?” another tweet reads. 

According to KBS, the program was built as a preventive measure in response to a murder that took place in a metro station bathroom.

On September 14, a Seoul Metro employee fatally stabbed a 28-year-old female coworker in her 20s in the women’s restroom at Sindang Station. The man has been sentenced to 40 years in jail, per BBC.

Members of the public paid their respects to the victim with handwritten Post-it notes at the entrance of the restroom where the incident took place. 

“I want to be alive at the end of my workday,” reads one. “Is it too much to ask, to be safe to reject people I don’t like?” reads another, per BBC.

Following the incident, the Seoul Metro has been implementing various safety measures, including self-defense training for its workers and separating men’s and women’s restrooms in renovated public buildings, per KBS.

South Korea fines Google US $32M

South Korea fined Alphabet Inc.’s Google 42.1 billion won (US$32 million) for using its clout in the mobile app market to squeeze out a local rival, the latest sign of intensifying scrutiny on the US tech firm as it seeks to expand overseas.

Google tried to block Korean platform rival One Store Co.’s growth, Korea’s Fair Trade Commission said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. Google allegedly asked some of Korean game companies including NCSoft Corp. and Netmarble Corp., as well as smaller firms and Chinese companies, to exclusively release their new games in Google’s Play Store, in return for Google promoting their games and providing further support abroad.

Google featuring a game on its top pages was seen as crucial for Korean game companies’ success in expanding overseas, where many of their games’ visibility is low, the FTC said.

Google — which controls roughly three-quarters of Korea’s mobile app market — has denied offering benefits to developers who put their apps only on Google Play.

“There has been no violation of the law,” a Google spokesperson said in a written statement, adding that it’s an open platform that gives developers control over how they distribute their apps. “Google makes substantial investments in the success of developers, and we respectfully disagree with the KFTC’s conclusions.”

The regulator said Google began making the conditional offers in June 2016, when One Store began operations in Korea, and continued through April 2018. The activity hindered One Store’s ability to attract new games and resulted in a drop in sales, while lifting Google’s revenue by about 1.8 trillion won, the FTC said.

Google’s “actions differ from normal marketing activities,” Yu Seong Wook, director general for the commission’s Anti-Monopoly Bureau, said at a briefing. “Google’s intention was to exclude One Store from the market, which it saw as a strong competitor.”

Faced with mounting accusations of anti-competitive practices around the world, Google has argued that unlike Apple Inc., it doesn’t prevent other app stores from competing on its platform. The company points users to apps from its Play Store because that’s where it can provide the best security and oversight, it says.

Google has faced various antitrust charges outside the US, including fines and suits in India and in the UK in past months.

The Korean watchdog disclosed internal memos, documents and e-mails from Google employees, alleging that the US firm saw the entry of One Store as a threat to its Korean sales and proceeded with a strategy to shut out its rival, even while it was aware its practices were anti-competitive.

The FTC ordered Google LLC, Google Korea and Google Asia Pacific to launch an internal monitoring system and report to the regulator for follow-ups. 

Both Google’s Play Store and One Store generate more than 90% of sales in Korea from selling games, the FTC said. Google held about 80% to 95% market share in the mobile Android app market in Korea between 2014 and 2019, it said. 

One Store is a local platform created by Korea’s three telecom companies — SK Telecom Co., KT Corp., and LG Uplus Corp. — and the internet firm Naver Corp. One Store is preparing an initial public offering and is seeking a valuation of $833 million, according to Hyun-Joon Hwang, analyst at DB Financial Investment.  – BLOOMBERG