Characterizing key stakeholders in an online black-hat marketplace

Shehroze Farooqi, Guillaume Jourjon, Muhammad Ikram, Mohamed Ali Kaafar, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Zubair Shafiq, Arik Friedman, Fareed Zaffar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Over the past few years, many black-hat marketplaces have emerged that facilitate access to reputation manipulation services such as fake Facebook likes, fraudulent search engine optimization (SEO), or bogus Amazon reviews. In order to deploy effective technical and legal countermeasures, it is important to understand how these black-hat marketplaces operate, shedding light on the services they offer, who is selling, who is buying, what are they buying, who is more successful, why are they successful, etc. Toward this goal, in this paper, we present a detailed micro-economic analysis of a popular online black-hat marketplace, namely, As the site provides non-anonymized transaction information, we set to analyze selling and buying behavior of individual users, propose a strategy to identify key users, and study their tactics as compared to other (non-key) users. We find that key users: (1) are mostly located in Asian countries, (2) are focused more on selling black-hat SEO services, (3) tend to list more lower priced services, and (4) sometimes buy services from other sellers and then sell at higher prices. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis with respect to devising effective economic and legal intervention strategies against marketplace operators and key users.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationeCrime 2017
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 2017 APWG Symposium on Electronic Crime Research
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781538627013
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventSymposium on Electronic Crime Research (12th : 2017) - Scottsdale, United States
Duration: 25 Apr 201727 Apr 2017


ConferenceSymposium on Electronic Crime Research (12th : 2017)
CountryUnited States

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