Cyber 9/11 Will Not Take Place: A User Perspective of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies from Underground and Dark Net Forums

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Background. There is a historical narrative of fear surrounding cybercrime. This has extended to cryptocurrencies (CCs), which are often viewed as a criminal tool. Aim. To carry out the first user study of CCs for illicit activity, from the perspective of underground and dark net forums. Method. We conducted a qualitative study, using a content analysis method, of 16,405 underground and dark net forum posts selected from CrimeBB, a dataset of 100 million posts curated by the Cambridge Cybercrime Centre. Results. Firstly, finality of payments emerged as a major motivator for the use of CCs. Second, we propose an Operational Security Taxonomy for Illicit Internet Activity to show that CCs are only one part of several considerations that combine to form security in illicit internet transactions. Third, the dark net is hard to use and requires significant study, specialist equipment and advanced knowledge to achieve relative security. Conclusion. We argue that finality is the main advantage of CCs for this user group, not anonymity as widely thought. The taxonomy shows that banning CCs is unlikely to be effective. Finally, we contend that the dark net is a niche for criminal activity and fears over cybercrime cause the threat to be exaggerated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocio-Technical Aspects in Security and Trust
Subtitle of host publication10th International Workshop, STAST 2020, Virtual Event, September 14, 2020, Revised Selected Papers
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-79318-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-79317-3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jun 2021

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science


  • bitcoin
  • cybercrime
  • cryptocurrencies
  • dark net

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