The School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University has been funded as part of the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center (CINA) led by George Mason University, which is designed to pursue innovative strategies and solutions to advance criminal network analysis, forensics, and investigative processes.  The CINA is a DHS Center of Excellence, and is sponsored by the Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs.

Here at MSU, Dr. Thomas J. Holt is leading a team of researchers who examine the economy and practices of actors engaged in illicit market operations run through forums and shops operating on the Open and Dark Web.  Individuals can sell all manner of products, ranging from firearms to drugs to stolen personal information and hacking tools through different online market places.  The payments are run through a variety of processors, and goods are shipped either through traditional post or even delivered electronically in the case of personal information or malicious software.

This project is designed to address three fundamental questions related to the actors and networks that enable this underground economy:

  • What is the size and scope of the market for illicit products, both physical and digital on the Internet?
  • What methods are used to pay for, process, and deliver goods and services within the market, and what differences can be seen based on where the product is advertised?
  • How do actors (buyers, sellers, and facilitators) organize in these markets, and how can these networks be most effectively disrupted?

Here you can find various information products developed from this study, including one to two page white papers, guided presentations, as well as a sign up and schedule for live webinars with the research team.  You can also directly contact the team if you have questions about the research, data sources, or are interested in trainings related to the study.