Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: Before the Vaccine

Bracci, A., Nadini, M., Aliapoulios, M. et al. Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine. EPJ Data Sci. 10, 6 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-021-00259-w

32 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2020 Last revised: 27 Jan 2021

See all articles by Alberto Bracci

Alberto Bracci

City University London - School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Matthieu Nadini

City University London

Maxwell Aliapoulios

New York University (NYU) - NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Damon McCoy

New York University (NYU) - NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Ian Gray

Fordham University

Alexander Teytelboym

University of Oxford

Angela Gallo

Independent

Andrea Baronchelli

City University London - School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; City University London

Date Written: October 2, 2020

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the demand for goods and services worldwide. The combination of a public health emergency, economic distress, and misinformation-driven panic have pushed customers and vendors towards the shadow economy. In particular, dark web marketplaces (DWMs), commercial websites accessible via free software, have gained significant popularity. Here, we analyse 851,199 listings extracted from 30 DWMs between January 1, 2020 and November 16, 2020. We identify 788 listings directly related to COVID-19 products and monitor the temporal evolution of product categories including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medicines (e.g., hydroxyclorochine), and medical frauds. Finally, we compare trends in their temporal evolution with variations in public attention, as measured by Twitter posts and Wikipedia page visits. We reveal how the online shadow economy has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight the importance of a continuous monitoring of DWMs, especially now that real vaccines are available and in short supply. We anticipate our analysis will be of interest both to researchers and public agencies focused on the protection of public health.

Keywords: cybercrime, cryptomarkets, bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, COVID-19, coronavirus

JEL Classification: C00, C80, C82, Y80, D40, D20

Suggested Citation

Bracci, Alberto and Nadini, Matthieu and Aliapoulios, Maxwell and McCoy, Damon and Gray, Ian and Teytelboym, Alexander and Gallo, Angela and Baronchelli, Andrea, Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: Before the Vaccine (October 2, 2020). Bracci, A., Nadini, M., Aliapoulios, M. et al. Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine. EPJ Data Sci. 10, 6 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-021-00259-w, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3703865 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3703865

Alberto Bracci (Contact Author)

City University London - School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB
United Kingdom

Matthieu Nadini

City University London ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V OHB
United Kingdom

Maxwell Aliapoulios

New York University (NYU) - NYU Tandon School of Engineering ( email )

6 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

Damon McCoy

New York University (NYU) - NYU Tandon School of Engineering ( email )

6 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

HOME PAGE: http://new.engineering.nyu.edu/faculty/damon-mccoy

Ian Gray

Fordham University ( email )

113 West 60th Street
Bronx, NY 10458
United States

Alexander Teytelboym

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Angela Gallo

Independent

Andrea Baronchelli

City University London - School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB
United Kingdom

City University London ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V OHB
United Kingdom

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