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Transnational organized crime presents a persistent and ever-increasing threat to national and international security, causing significant social and economic impacts for individuals, societies, and countries. Government and private organizations alike face many challenges when attempting to identify, monitor, and counter transnational organized crime.

Back in 2011, transnational organized crime was described as:

“one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century”

RAND Corporation

Over the last decade, the threat that transnational organized crime poses has continued to expand with groups growing in size and influence, exploiting the softening of borders due to globalization and taking advantage of advancements in and ease of access to online communications technology.

Generating billions of dollars each year, these groups are diversifying their activities, employing a range of legal and illegal activities with the goal to obtain power and wealth. These illegal activities include but aren’t limited to:

  • Narcotics & weapons trafficking
  • People smuggling & human trafficking
  • Wildlife trafficking
  • Cyber-crime & fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Corruption & extortion
  • Assassinations & general violence

There are several challenges associated with effectively countering transnational organized crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation notes the importance of broadly targeting groups and networks rather than individuals to have a better chance of addressing the complex, diverse and well-resourced nature of transnational organized crime.

“Even if key individuals in an organization are removed, the depth and financial strength of the organization often allow it to continue.”

The FBI 

This statement rings true for investigations into one of the world’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organizations – the Sinaloa Cartel. This transnational organized crime network is believed to be present in over 17 Mexican states and has operations in over 50 countries after originating in Sinaloa, Mexico.

Despite the imprisonment of one of the most visible leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel Joaquín Guzmán Loera known as “El Chapo” along with in-fighting, turf wars, and other arrests, the cartel has maintained a stronghold in Mexico as one of the most dominant in the drug trafficking landscape. They have achieved this in part by relying on blood bonds, political connections, bribery, and relationships with local partners and associates such as Los Antrax, a large enforcer unit and hit squad for the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Sinaloa Cartel’s stronghold in Mexico, even after attempts by law enforcement and national security agencies to disrupt operations, highlights the dual challenges inherent in countering transnational organized crime. Intelligence teams must simultaneously identify and track the digital footprint of individuals and organizations associated with the cartel across a diverse and complex network while dealing with multinational and often multilingual data.

Advanced open-source intelligence (OSINT) capabilities can provide analysts with the actionable insights from open-source platforms needed to effectively address these challenges while identifying and monitoring transnational organized crime groups operating or communicating online.

Fivecast ONYX is a threat intelligence framework that combines broad data collection across the Surface, Deep, and Dark Web with AI-enabled risk detectors to build a rich intelligence picture around transnational organized crime groups and individuals.

Fivecast ONYX deploys automated collection and risk assessment of masses of multi-media data, enabling analysts to uncover threats regardless of a group’s organizational structure, reach or influence across multiple countries. The solution enables the identification of previously unknown actors through a built-in Persons of Interest (POI) search, data triage in over 100 languages, and delivers a customizable risk detection framework to detect a wide range of content relevant to investigations in multi-media data.

By leveraging these capabilities, Fivecast ONYX rapidly surfaces networks, uncovers locations and risky behavior regardless of language, or data type enabling intelligence teams to cover more and miss less in the fight against transnational organized crime.