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Title: On the resilience of the Dark Net Market ecosystem to law enforcement intervention
Author: Bradley, Cerys
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 2338
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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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.
Supervisor: Stringhini, G. ; Borrion, H. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available