City Research Online

Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine

Bracci, A., Nadini, M., Aliapoulios, M., McCoy, D., Gray, I., Teytelboym, A., Gallo, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-8355-1689 and Baronchelli, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0255-0829 (2021). Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine. EPJ Data Science, 10(1), 6.. doi: 10.1140/epjds/s13688-021-00259-w

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.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Publisher Keywords: COVID-19; Dark Web Marketplaces; Shadow economy; Bitcoin
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR180 Immunology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: Business School > Finance
Related URLs:
Date available in CRO: 21 Apr 2021 08:37
Date deposited: 21 April 2021
Date of acceptance: 5 January 2021
Date of first online publication: 21 January 2021
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/25937
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