Into the Reverie: Exploration of the Dream Market



Since the emergence of the Silk Road market in the early 2010s, dark web “cryptomarkets” have proliferated and offered people an online platform to buy and sell illicit drugs, relying on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin for anonymous transactions. However, recent studies have highlighted the potential for de-anonymization of bitcoin transactions, bringing into question the level of anonymity afforded by cryptomarkets. We examine a set of over 100,000 product reviews from several cryptomarkets collected in 2018 and 2019 and conduct a comprehensive analysis of the markets, including an examination of the distribution of drug sales and revenue among vendors, and a comparison of incidences of opioid sales to overdose deaths in a US city. We explore the potential for de-anonymization of vendors by implementing a Naïve-Bayes classifier to predict the vendor from a given product review, and attempt to link vendors’ sales to specific Bitcoin transactions. On the buyer side, we evaluate the efficacy of hierarchical agglomerative clustering for grouping together transactions corresponding to the same buyer. We find that the high degree of specialization among the small subset of high-revenue vendors may render these vendors susceptible to de-anonymization. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings, which are restricted by the scarcity of ground-truth data for validation.


title={Into the Reverie: Exploration of the Dream Market},
author={Carr, Theo and Zhuang, Jun and Sablan, Dwight and LaRue, Emma and Wu, Yubao and Al Hasan, Mohammad and Mohler, George},
booktitle={2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (Big Data)},