CrimeBB: Enabling cybercrime research on underground forums at scale


Underground forums allow criminals to interact, exchange knowledge, and trade in products and services. They also provide a pathway into cybercrime, tempting the curious to join those already motivated to obtain easy money. Analysing these forums enables us to better understand the behaviours of offenders and pathways into crime. Prior research has been valuable, but limited by a reliance on datasets that are incomplete or outdated. More complete data, going back many years, allows for comprehensive research into the evolution of forums and their users. We describe CrimeBot, a crawler designed around the particular challenges of capturing data from underground forums. CrimeBot is used to update and maintain CrimeBB, a dataset of more than 48m posts made from 1m accounts in 4 different operational forums over a decade. This dataset presents a new opportunity for large-scale and longitudinal analysis using up-to-date information. We illustrate the potential by presenting a case study using CrimeBB, which analyses which activities lead new actors into engagement with cybercrime. CrimeBB is available to other academic researchers under a legal agreement, designed to prevent misuse and provide safeguards for ethical research.

Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference