Dizzy: Large-Scale Crawling and Analysis of Onion Services

Isuranga Perera, Yazan Boshmaf

With nearly 2.5m users, onion services have become the prominent part of the darkweb. Over the last five years alone, the number of onion domains has increased 20x, reaching more than 700k unique domains in January 2022. As onion services host various types of illicit content, they have become a valuable resource for darkweb research and an integral part of e-crime investigation and threat intelligence. However, this content is largely un-indexed by today's search engines and researchers have to rely on outdated or manually-collected datasets that are limited in scale, scope, or both. To tackle this problem, we built Dizzy: An open-source crawling and analysis system for onion services. Dizzy implements novel techniques to explore, update, check, and classify hidden services at scale, without overwhelming the Tor network. We deployed Dizzy in April 2021 and used it to analyze more than 63.3m crawled onion webpages, focusing on domain operations, web content, cryptocurrency usage, and web graph. Our main findings show that onion services are unreliable due to their high churn rate, have a relatively small number of reachable domains that are often similar and illicit, enjoy a growing underground cryptocurrency economy, and have a topologically different graph structure than the regular web.

Knowledge Graph



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