Researchers monitor dark web after suspicion of trade related to Covid-19 products

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 05, 2021

Dark web marketplaces (DWMs) should be monitored continuously as they are suspected to trade products related to Covid-19, as per the study carried out by City data scientist Andrea Baronchelli, and colleagues.

This comes especially at a time when the Covid-19 related products and vaccines are in shortage of availability.

The study is titled ‘Dark Web Marketplaces and Covid-19’ and is published in the EPJ Data Science journal.

For the study, the researchers analysed 851,199 listings extracted from 30 DWMs between January 1, and November 16, before the advent of the vaccine.

They identified 788 listings directly related to Covid-19 products and monitor the temporal evolution of product categories including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medicines (e.g., hydroxychloroquine), and medical fraud.

The authors compared trends in the temporal evolution of trade in these products with variations in public attention, as measured by Twitter posts and Wikipedia page visits.

Theyalso highlighted the importance of dark web players such as DarkBay/DBay.

"In our dataset, DarkBay/DBay is featured prominently among DWMs offering Covid-19 specific listings. Ranking in the top 100 sites in the entire dark web, DarkBay/DBay offers more listings categories than other DWMs,” the researchers wrote.

They added: “It was also frequently accessible during the period of time monitored during this research, with an uptime of 80 per cent, higher from the 77 per cent uptime of Empire, the largest global DWM at the time of writing."

The authors highlighted that the uninformed citizens were exposed to waves of misinformation. These include the ones related to hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and azithromycin, may be tempted to shop on DWMs thus exposing themselves to serious health risks.

Moreover, the availability of regulated products currently in shortage in the traditional economy undermines anti-price gouging regulations and regulated businesses that sell the same products, they concluded.

Published on February 05, 2021

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