Dr Brenton Cooper is the co-founder and chief executive of Fivecast, a data analytics startup that provides global law enforcement agencies with the tools to tackle challenges like online extremism, terrorism, and human trafficking.
“Our mission as a company is to enable a safer world, and we do that by uncovering risks to the global community through online data,” Dr Cooper said.
“We’re supporting our customers in missions such as counter-terrorism, serious and organised crime, combatting human trafficking, monitoring online extremism, and just generally providing a safer world.”
Adelaide-based Fivecast is a finalist in the Software Innovation category of the 2022 InnovationAus Awards for Excellence. The winners will be announced at a Black-Tie soiree at The Cutaway venue at Barangaroo on November 17.
Hatched in 2017, the company was built on work that came out of the Data to Decisions Cooperative Centre (D2D CRC), which gathers government agencies and top research institutions to tackle the big data challenges facing national security and law enforcement.
Today, Fivecast’s AI-driven technology – dubbed ONYX – is specifically being used around the world for counter terrorism, extremist threats monitoring, security vetting, insider threat detection, anti-trafficking, and fraud detection.
It monitors and interprets a range of multimedia data, including image, text and video to detect phrases, quotes and logos and uses artificial intelligence to learn and increase its capabilities over time.
“We help law enforcement and intelligence analysts collect and analyse information from publicly available information sources such as the dark web, chat rooms, and forums, where illegal activity is happening,” Dr Cooper said.
One good example of a US project already making a difference is with not-for-profit organisation, Deliver Fund, which is helping to reduce the impact of human trafficking in the continental US.
“They’re a group of ex-navy seals and CIA agents, and they’ve turned their talents to human trafficking in the US,” Dr Cooper said.
“We’re helping them understand and see how these human traffickers are recruiting people online and across the digital world, and also how they’re advertising their services,” he said.
“We’re able to help them understand the network behind the human traffickers and develop packages for targeting, which they send off to their law environment partners.”
Sifting through ‘data noise’
So, what underpins the technology? ONYX is a cloud-hosted open-source intelligence solution that provides advanced data collection across online platforms on the Surface, Deep and Dark Web and deploys AI-enabled risk analytics.
“Open-Source Intelligence, often referred to as a subset of digital intelligence, is the process of collecting, analysing, and extracting meaningful insights from publicly available data sources including social media, news feeds, blog sites, and discussion forums,” Dr Cooper explained.
Given the growth of open-source data is exponential – and will be for the foreseeable future – Dr Cooper said it’s essential for intelligence teams (both government and corporate) to leverage technical solutions that automate data collection and analysis. This is in addition to the existing use of their own analytical expertise and tradecraft to progress intelligence missions.
“The volume, speed and complexity of online data is beyond human scale, and intelligence organisations can’t keep up. ONYX enables intelligence teams to sift through ‘data noise’ to identify the most relevant data essential to progressing investigations and protecting global communities.”
Delivering more than simple monitoring, Dr Cooper said the unique power of the ONYX solution is in its capacity to not only explore unprecedented amounts of data, but to provide deep and actionable insights.
In that vein, the technology’s risk detection framework combines advanced network identification capabilities and sentiment and emotion detection in a bid to deliver an unmatched ability to predict and prevent threats across complex digital landscapes.
Asked about market challengers, Dr Cooper said ONYX sits in a diverse competitive landscape with a number of competitors in several categories including: monitoring of publicly available data (Surface Web data); dark web monitoring; deep web collection; multi-source fusion; and configurable risk scoring.
“Fivecast is one of the few companies to sit within all five of these categories after having recently developed a Fusion capability to compete with multi-source fusion companies. Our data collection and access to Surface, Deep and Dark Web data, combined with advanced AI-enabled risk analytics to easily filter and assess that data, sets us apart.
Already, the company is in full growth mode, hiring its 100th employee – up from 15 staffers three years ago.
The company has established a strong export market in the US and expanded its export capabilities to the EU, EMEA and APAC, with plans to increase market penetration in these markets while continuing to grow its US market share.
On US soil, it has established a Tradecraft and Business Development team in Arlington, Virginia, which has grown to 15 people.
Additionally, Fivecast is considered one of the first ever Australian companies and only a handful of international companies to win a DIU (Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) project with the US Department of Defense, earmarked to be a US$8.8m project.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the company has hired its first two team members.
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