Characterizing seller-driven black-hat marketplaces

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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 nonanonymized 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
Article number1505.01637
JournalarXiv e-prints
Publication statusSubmitted - 7 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

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    Farooqi, S., Ikram, M., Irfan, G., De Cristofaro, E., Friedman, A., Jourjon, G., ... Zaffar, F. (2015). Characterizing seller-driven black-hat marketplaces. Manuscript submitted for publication.