Rising Number of Data Dumps for Sale Driving Down Prices At Dark Web Marketplaces

Between February 2021 and June 2022, dark web marketplaces grew both in terms of the number of sellers and the variety of products on sale.


The 2022 Dark Web Price Index report from Privacy Affairs details the latest trends and developments across cybercriminal forums and dark web marketplaces. Compared to last year, rising data dumps for sale have driven down prices remarkably this year.


The 2022 Dark Web Price Index report revealed that between February 2021 and June 2022, dark web marketplaces grew both in terms of the number of sellers and the variety of products on sale.


Sales volume is also off the charts, with each seller reporting several thousands of transactions. There are approximately 9,000 active vendors selling items ranging from fake IDs and credit cards from different countries to email IDs, social media accounts, malware, and for the first time, hacked cryptocurrency accounts and web services such as Uber, Netflix, HBO, Canva, etc.


At the same time, as supply surged, the prices for these illicit commodities plummeted as much as 85%+ for some. Of course, rampant supply varied the prices of different products, with some continuing to command a respectable price. But the overall trend is consistent with the law of supply and demand.


Jim Simpson, the director of threat intelligence at Searchlight Security, told Spiceworks, “This research shows that the dark web is an increasingly crowded market, which means it has never been easier or less expensive to procure illicit goods such as cybercriminal toolkits, credentials or exploits.”


According to Simpson, the supply-side abundance can be attributed to the economic uncertainty associated with COVID-19. “We know that in times of economic uncertainty people are more likely to turn to crime. As prices drop, so does the barrier to entry for cybercrime, and therefore there is the potential for an influx of new dark web users looking for quick ways to make cash.”


The global economy rebounded nicely after the third wave but is back to square one following the Russia-Ukraine conflict. So it is reasonable to expect an even higher influx of illegal items.


However, there is no clear winner amongst dark web marketplaces where cybercriminals flock to present and sell their wares. Until October 2021, White House Market was the leader, hosting a third of all sellers. But it shut down unexpectedly and was replaced by ToRReZ and AlphaBay.


Marketplaces are also implementing better security measures to ensure law enforcement is off their tails. Some of these measures include substituting Bitcoin with Monero for payments and leveraging robust privacy (PGP) encryption tools.


Though transactions on Dark Web marketplaces may be secure and up to the mark, the same can’t be said of the products being sold. “There is no quality guarantee on the dark web – it is highly probable we’ll see opportunistic sellers that will take advantage of this situation with false sales, knowing there is no recourse for buyers who have been defrauded in an illegal transaction,” Simpsons added.


Privacy Affairs also discovered that marketplaces are vying to offer better customer service using traditional marketing techniques to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Discounts on products (buy two cloned credit cards, get one free), coupons, and product reviews are becoming increasingly common.


Products on sale include credit cards, payment processing services, hacked cryptocurrency accounts, online services, entertainment accounts, forged documents (digital scans and physical), malware, DDoS attacks, etc.


In December 2021, approximately 4.5 million credit cards were put up for sale on the dark web, with the average price ranging between $1 each in the U.S., Canada, and Australia to $20 in Hong Kong.


Mobile and other online payment services are increasingly replacing credit cards, which is why they are fetching a higher average buy price. PayPal account details were the most common and hence the cheapest, with the highest price drop since last year. Verified Cashapp accounts still command 80% of the value from last year.


Most cryptocurrencies reached lifetime highs in 2021 but have depreciated to two to three-year lows, with some even losing their entire value. This reflects in the value of hacked cryptocurrency accounts on sale.


“The hefty losses in value reflect jitters in traditional markets,” explained Privacy Affairs. “Although crypto and mainstream investments remained separate for many years, recent events coupled them. So, investor uncertainty in stock and bond markets, for example, also showed up in the crypto markets.”


Uber is the only online service whose hacked account appreciated in value. A hacked Uber account’s value increased by 87.5%, while that of a driver increased by 150%. Overall, hacked online services, entertainment accounts (Bet365, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Orange, Canva, etc.), and forged documents were the ones that depreciated the least of all product categories.


Some of the forged documents that rose in value were USA selfies with IDs, driver’s license (New South Wales, Australia; Minnesota, New Jersey, U.S.; Alberta, Canada), IDs (Texas, Louisiana, Utah, European Union), and fake US green cards. Surprisingly, the value of passports (Malta, Latvia, Netherlands, France, Poland, etc.) fell as much as 68%.


Simpson concluded, “Assuming that most sales are legitimate, organizations should expect more adversaries looking to exploit them, which makes it increasingly important for them to have a way to quickly identify when and where their data is being sold in the dark web so they can take action to prevent cyberattacks as quickly as possible.”


For additional details on the year-over-year comparison of various dark web products, check Privacy Affairs’ 2022 Dark Web Price Index report.

Osayi Ejiga

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