Scraping the Dark Web: Understanding the Drug and Firearms Dark Net Markets in British Columbia

Grant Agency: Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach (OCR-GO)’s Crime Reduction Research Program

Awarded: 2020-2022

Principal Investigator: Dr. Richard Frank

Research Assistants: Bryan Monk, Shu Qi Liu, Noelle Warkentin

Cryptomarkets are marketplaces on the dark web that use cryptocurrency and connect buyers and vendors for the sale of illicit goods and services. There are a variety of products advertised, including firearms and drugs. Illegal weapons trafficking is an international issue that enables violent crimes. Drugs are sold internationally and often in bulk. In spite of law enforcement intervention, the cryptomarket ecosystem has been expanding in both the number of cryptomarkets and the number of products sold.

In response to these growing markets, this project was developed and has three primary aims. 1) Understand the number and abilities of vendors selling firearms and drugs. 2) Map high activity areas that distribute and consume these products. 3) Develop cost indexes for these products. The Dark Crawler will be used to collect data on multiple cryptomarkets to provide an overall perspective of the cryptomarket ecosystem. This project will take place over the course of 12 months, from February 2021 to January 2022.