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CMU Connections: Nicolas Christin
Nicolas Christin is an associate professor at the School of Computer Science, Engineering & Public Policy and Cylab at Carnegie Mellon University. He will be speaking to the CMU-Q community on ‘A deep dive in the deep web: Insights from eight years of online anonymous marketplace measurements’.
About the talk:
Founded in 2011, Silk Road was the first online anonymous marketplace, in which buyers and sellers could transact with anonymity guarantees far superior to those available in online or offline alternatives, thanks to the innovative use of cryptocurrencies and network anonymization. Business on Silk Road, primarily involving narcotics trafficking, was brisk and before long competitors appeared. After Silk Road was taken down by law enforcement, a dynamic ecosystem of online anonymous marketplaces emerged. That ecosystem is highly active, to this day, and has been surprisingly resilient to multiple law enforcement take down operations as well as “exit scams,” in which the operators of a marketplace abruptly abscond with any money left on the platform.
I will describe insights gained from eight years of active measurement of the online anonymous market ecosystem. More precisely, I will highlight the scientific challenges in collecting such data at scale. I will discuss how overall revenues have steadily grown year after year, and describe the leading types of commerce taking place on these markets. I will then briefly focus on the role online anonymous markets play in cybercrime commoditization. Last, I will explain our efforts on matching a priori disparate vendor handles to unique individuals, and on detecting impersonation attacks. This will help me introduce some of the research avenues we are currently pursuing.