Photo-based Vendor Re-identification on Darknet Marketplaces using Deep Neural Networks
MetadataShow full item record
Darknet markets are online services behind Tor where cybercriminals trade illegal goods and stolen datasets. In recent years, security analysts and law enforcement start to investigate the darknet markets to study the cybercriminal networks and predict future incidents. However, vendors in these markets often create multiple accounts (i.e., Sybils), making it challenging to infer the relationships between cybercriminals and identify coordinated crimes. In this thesis, we present a novel approach to link the multiple accounts of the same darknet vendors through photo analytics. The core idea is that darknet vendors often have to take their own product photos to prove the possession of the illegal goods, which can reveal their distinct photography styles. To fingerprint vendors, we construct a series deep neural networks to model the photography styles. We apply transfer learning to the model training, which allows us to accurately fingerprint vendors with a limited number of photos. We evaluate the system using real-world datasets from 3 large darknet markets (7,641 vendors and 197,682 product photos). A ground-truth evaluation shows that the system achieves an accuracy of 97.5%, outperforming existing stylometry-based methods in both accuracy and coverage. In addition, our system identifies previously unknown Sybil accounts within the same markets (23) and across different markets (715 pairs). Further case studies reveal new insights into the coordinated Sybil activities such as price manipulation, buyer scam, and product stocking and reselling.
General Audience Abstract
Taking advantage of the high anonymity of darknet, cybercriminals have set up underground trading websites such as darknet markets for trading illegal goods. To understand the relationships between cybercriminals and identify coordinated activities, it is necessary to identify the multiple accounts hold by the same vendor. Apart from manual investigation, previous studies have proposed methods for linking multiple accounts through analyzing the writing styles hidden in the users' online posts, which face key challenges in similar tasks on darknet markets. In this thesis, we propose a novel approach to link multiple identities within the same darknet market or across different markets by analyzing the product photos. We develop a system where a series of deep neural networks (DNNs) are used with transfer learning to extract distinct features from a vendor's photos automatically. Using real-world datasets from darknet markets, we evaluate the proposed system which shows clear advantages over the writing style based system. Further analysis of the results reported by the proposed system reveal new insights into coordinated activities such as price manipulation, buyer scam and product stocking and reselling for those vendors who hold multiple accounts.
- Masters Theses