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AI is Supporting Cybercrime Investigations at the Secret Service

The service is using emerging capabilities to analyze billions of data records and detect financial crimes.

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image of U.S. Secret Service officer, wearing a vest with various equipment attached, stands in front of White House. Washington DC. USA
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Most people are aware of the U.S. Secret Service’s mission to protect the president, but not everyone knows that the service is also responsible for investigating financial crimes — a landscape that has drastically changed following the advent of crypto laundering.

“I come from the old days when you followed the money on a paper trail,” said Roy Dotson, assistant special agent in charge and national pandemic recovery coordinator at the Secret Service, at an ATARC event. “But now cybercrime is probably the top priority of our agency in what we do day to day — whether that’s a business email compromise or ransomware or an [Investment Coin Offering (ICO)] for crypto — whatever the flavor of the day is.”

Currently, pandemic-relief fraud is a major focus for the agency, which estimates that nearly $100 billion was lost in stolen funds. Most cases of government-relief fraud involved the use of cryptocurrency, which is notoriously difficult to trace.

“Particularly during the last two years with pandemic relief fraud, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the amount of cyber or cyber-enabled fraud just based on the processes there,” Dotson said. “We’ve created a Global Investigative Operations Center, kind of a command center, during this time period just because of the overall activity. We created a cryptocurrency section because the use of that majorly ramped up during the pandemic.”

The Service has massive amounts of data to analyze in its cybercrime investigations, which is where AI/ML capabilities come into play.

“We’re talking billions of records that we have to try to cipher through,” Dotson said. “Thanks to the advancements of AI and ML, we’re able to develop some very good criminal leads that we’ll be able to follow up on that normally law enforcement just wouldn’t have the capability of doing. It gives us a better chance of working cases faster and identifying suspects quicker. That can help us to possibly apprehend people that we might not have had the chance to before because of the time delay.”

AI/ML capabilities are the key to the service’s shift from reactive to proactive investigation.

“We are out trying to find cases and developing those investigations,” Dotson said.

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