Dark web markets: an introduction

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Online criminal markets have been operating since the 1980s. They can take on many shapes and forms including independent small websites, discussion forums or professional marketplaces that copy most of the features of sites like Amazon. This presentation will serve as an introduction to the different types of online illicit markets that are active today and will focus more specifically on three of their features. The first feature is trust building. Because of the anonymity that online illicit markets provide to their participants, trust is difficult to achieve between online illicit market participants and there is a need for a trusted third-party to regulate social interactions. Market administrators often play that role. The second feature is competition. There are tens of thousands if not more vendors active on online illicit markets everyday, but the success of these vendors appears to be limited and ephemeral. This can be best understood through an analysis of the very competitive nature of online illicit markets. The third and last feature is the adaptation of online illicit market administrators and participants. Many law enforcement agencies – and competitors – target these individuals on an ongoing basis and some attempts at disrupting their activities have proven to be more effective than others. We have now a good understanding of what works in this context.

This content has been updated on 13 October 2018 at 9 h 14 min.