“But how much does my data cost on the dark web?” Occasionally articles and reports appear breathlessly listing the price for a credit card or Instagram account on the dark web. These articles provide only a small snapshot of dark web activity. Asking how much data costs on the dark web is a good question, but the line of inquiry should not end there. In our research of the dark web, Terbium Labs not only examines the data available, but also explores the broader context of findings. Our analysts wanted to explore the question: “What can these industry reports show us about dark web pricing of well-defined digital assets over time?”
To answer that question, analysts reviewed 22 reports on dark web pricing from 18 sources published in the last 5 years to see if they would reveal any interesting trends. Common in academia, meta-analyses like the one we performed help researchers efficiently identify patterns in the data over time and among the studies themselves. What started as an analysis of dark web pricing quickly turned into a meta-analysis of dark web pricing reports, as analysts tried to piece together results derived from broadly varying collections strategies and taxonomies.
Available research and reports on dark web pricing, particularly for goods like payment card information, rely on widely diverse collection methods and use inconsistent terminology. The haphazard nature of these reports and the irregularity with which they are published contribute to the already mysterious public image of the dark web. At Terbium Labs, we believe the dark web research community has a responsibility to shed an honest light on the dark web and empower the public to take online security more seriously.
Terbium Labs seeks to remove the veil of fear, uncertainty, and doubt hanging over the dark web by pushing the industry to analyze its markets for digital goods as economists might study any other market. To bring the rigor of other disciplines to dark web research, this report highlights inconsistencies between reports and proposes a way forward: establishing a standardized taxonomy and a common method for measuring pricing fluctuations among agreed-upon asset definitions.