Platforms in everything: Analyzing ground-truth data on the anatomy and economics of bullet-proof hosting

Arman Noroozian, Jan Koenders, Eelco Van Veldhuizen, Carlos H. Ganan, Sumayah Alrwais, Damon McCoy, Michel Van Eeten

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    This paper presents the first empirical study based on ground-truth data of a major Bullet-Proof Hosting (BPH) provider, a company called MaxiDed. BPH allows miscreants to host criminal activities in support of various cybercrime business models such as phishing, botnets, DDoS, spam, and counterfeit pharmaceutical websites. MaxiDed was legally taken down by law enforcement and its backend servers were seized. We analyze data extracted from its backend databases and connect it to various external data sources to characterize MaxiDed's business model, supply chain, customers and finances. We reason about what the “inside” view reveals about potential chokepoints for disrupting BPH providers. We demonstrate the BPH landscape to have further shifted from agile resellers towards marketplace platforms with an oversupply of resources originating from hundreds of legitimate upstream hosting providers. We find the BPH provider to have few choke points in the supply chain amendable to intervention, though profit margins are very slim, so even a marginal increase in operating costs might already have repercussions that render the business unsustainable. The other intervention option would be to take down the platform itself.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th USENIX Security Symposium
    PublisherUSENIX Association
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781939133069
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
    Event28th USENIX Security Symposium - Santa Clara, United States
    Duration: Aug 14 2019Aug 16 2019

    Publication series

    NameProceedings of the 28th USENIX Security Symposium


    Conference28th USENIX Security Symposium
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CitySanta Clara

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Computer Networks and Communications
    • Information Systems
    • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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