VendorLink: An NLP approach for Identifying & Linking Vendor Migrants & Potential Aliases on Darknet Markets


The anonymity on the Darknet allows vendors to stay undetected by using multiple vendor aliases or frequently migrating between markets. Consequently, illegal markets and their connections are challenging to uncover on the Darknet. To identify relationships between illegal markets and their vendors, we propose VendorLink, an NLP-based approach that examines writing patterns to verify, identify, and link unique vendor accounts across text advertisements (ads) on seven public Darknet markets. In contrast to existing literature, VendorLink utilizes the strength of supervised pretraining to perform closed-set vendor verification, open-set vendor identification, and low-resource market adaption tasks. Through VendorLink, we uncover (i) 15 migrants and 71 potential aliases in the Alphabay-Dreams-Silk dataset, (ii) 17 migrants and 3 potential aliases in the Valhalla-Berlusconi dataset, and (iii) 75 migrants and 10 potential aliases in the Traderoute-Agora dataset. Altogether, our approach can help Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) make more informed decisions by verifying and identifying migrating vendors and their potential aliases on existing and Low-Resource (LR) emerging Darknet markets.

Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)
Nils Rethmeier
Nils Rethmeier
PhD Student