The probability of a crime or an attack involves assessing risk, which is the objective of data mining. A determination involves the analysis of data pertaining to observed behavior and the modeling of it in order to determine the likelihood of its occurring again. Closely linked to risk are threats and vulnerabilities, weaknesses or flaws in a system, such as a hole in security or a back door placed in a server, which increases the likelihood of a hacker attack. As with the deductive method of profiling, almost as much time is spent in profiling each individual victim as in rendering characteristics about the offender responsible for the crime.
Assessing probability or predicting that a crime or an attack is going to take place involves either the interrogation of witnesses by investigators or field observation and inspection by security professionals of a property or the review of documents by intelligence analysts. In the case of computer systems, it may involve the testing of hardware and software or an evaluation of the design of firewalls against hacker and virus attacks. Data mining performs a similar type of risk assessment in computing the probability of crimes by analyzing hundreds of thousands of records and data points using pattern-recognition technologies.
Estimating the probability of crimes has traditionally involved the use of criminal statistics and documented historical data, such as crime reports or documented terrorist attack procedures. For a security professional, this may entail the documented statistics of car thefts for a building over a one-year period. For a criminal profiler, it is reconstructive techniques (e.g., wound-pattern analysis, bloodstain-pattern analysis, bullet-trajectory analysis), or the results of any other accepted form of forensic analysis that has a bearing on victim or offender behavior. The same holds true with data mining, in which predictive models or rules are generated based on the examination of criminal behavior and perpetrators.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the director of the FBI announced, "The Bureau needs to do a better job of analyzing data and expand the use of data mining, financial record analysis, and communications analysis to combat terrorism." The FBI hopes to use AI software to predict acts of terrorism the way the telepathic "precogs" in the movie Minority Report foresee murders. The goal is to "skate where the puck's going to be, not where the puck was." The technology plan reflects a belief that the chief weapon against crime and terrorism will not be bullets or bombs. It will be information.