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On the Resilience of the Dark Net Market Ecosystem to Law Enforcement Intervention

Bradley, Cerys; (2019) On the Resilience of the Dark Net Market Ecosystem to Law Enforcement Intervention. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Dark Net Markets (DNMs) are websites found on the Dark Net that facilitate the anonymous trade of illegal items such as drugs and weapons. Despite repeated law enforcement interventions on DNMs, the ecosystem has continued to grow since the first DNM, Silk Road, in 2011. This research project investigates the resilience of the ecosystem and tries to understand which characteristics allow it to evade law enforcement. This thesis is comprised of three studies. The first uses a dataset contained publicly available, scraped data from 34 DNMs to quantitatively measure the impact of a large scale law enforcement operation, Operation Onymous, on the vendor population. This impact is compared to the impact of the closure of the DNM Evolution in an exit scam. For both events, the impact on different vendor populations (for example those who are directly affected and those who aren't) are compared and the characteristics that make vendors resilient to each event are investigated. In the second study, a dataset acquired from the server the DNM Silk Road 2.0 is used to better understand the relationships between buyers and vendors. Network analysis and statistical techniques are used to explore when buyers trade and who with. This dataset is also used to measure the impact of a hack on Silk Road 2.0 on its population. In the final study, discussions from the forum site Reddit were used to qualitatively assess user perceptions of two law enforcement interventions. These interventions were distinct in nature - one, Operation Hyperion, involved warning users and arresting individuals and the second, Operation Bayonet, actively closed a DNM. Grounded Theory was used to identify topics of conversation and directly compare the opinions held by users on each intervention. These studies were used to evaluate hypotheses incorporated into two models of resilience. One model focuses on individual users and one on the ecosystem as a whole. The models were then used to discuss current law enforcement approaches on combating DNMs and how they might be improved.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: On the Resilience of the Dark Net Market Ecosystem to Law Enforcement Intervention
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: Dark net, cybercrime, drug markets
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080409
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