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Dark Web : exploring and data mining the dark side of the Web
Chen H., Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, London, UK, 2012. 477 pp.  Type: Book (978-1-461415-56-5)
Date Reviewed: Oct 19 2012

Chen’s monograph is a very detailed (yet understandable), up-to-date account of research into one very specific area of the Web. The term “dark Web” refers to Web content generated and used by international terrorist groups. It includes not only Web sites, but also other Internet-based interactions such as forums, chat rooms, blogs, social networking sites, videos, and virtual worlds.

This comprehensive treatise is interdisciplinary, but firmly rooted in the computational paradigm. Behind the results presented here, we should recognize many years of research by the University of Arizona Artificial Intelligence Lab, aimed at studying and understanding “international terrorism phenomena via a computational, data-centric approach.” The book consists of three parts: the research framework (three chapters), the dark Web research itself (ten chapters), and case studies (nine chapters).

Before presenting the research of the dark Web, the author attempts to compare what he means by intelligence and security informatics, and terrorism informatics. Both form part of the research framework, as does data mining and knowledge discovery in databases more generally. Dark Web research is at base a computational approach that aims to analyze data. A variety of topics related to the research are covered in the book, including forum spidering, link and content analysis, dark network analysis, interactional coherence analysis, authorship analysis, sentiment analysis, and affect analysis. Apparently all of these involve some special data found in the dark Web. Methods of analysis are usually related to known methods used in more general contexts, with important enhancements or adaptations developed during the project. But frequently the specific nature of data required that researchers also develop original analytical methods, which are presented in the book. One outcome of the research is the proposal of a dark Web attribute system that should enable quantitative data analysis from various perspectives, such as technical sophistication, content richness, and Web interactivity.

The book offers an impressive set of dark Web case studies, including jihadi video analysis, extremist YouTube videos, communities sharing information about improvised explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction, bioterrorism knowledge mapping, women’s forums, domestic extremist groups, the international Falun Gong movement on the Web, and botnets and cyber criminals.

The book is very thoroughly elaborated. While this is certainly one of the very positive features of the book, I would note that sometimes less is more. The author obviously devised a general structure of the book and its chapters, and was very conscientious in following that plan. However, using three levels of numbered subsections as the method for structuring text can lead to subsections that have as few as four-and-a-half lines.

Apart from such minor formal aspects, the author’s thorough approach has been very fruitful. The literature reviews included in almost every chapter are especially valuable. Those chapters without a literature review discuss related work instead. These, together with the usual references at the end of each chapter, provide extraordinarily useful entry points to corresponding topics, not only for researchers but also for industry specialists and others. Indeed, the book can be interesting reading for academicians, researchers, and students at universities, especially those studying information systems, information science, computer science, and other related disciplines. It is also recommended for researchers in security-related disciplines. Beyond those groups, the book should also interest security specialists in the industry, especially those dealing with information technology (IT)-related issues, and people at all levels of government who are interested in understanding and assessing the impact of the dark Web.

Overall, the book presents a wealth of research results on an important subject, in a consistent way. It is definitely much more than a series of research results artificially glued together to form a single book. If the fact that all the material resulted from a single project at a single institution is in some sense a limiting factor, then the author is to be congratulated: within the limits of what was possible, he coped with this challenge in an excellent manner.

Reviewer:  P. Navrat Review #: CR140614 (1302-0077)
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