Is the Internet for Porn? An Insight Into the Online Adult Industry

Gilbert Wondracek, Thorsten Holz, Christian Platzer, Engin Kirda, Christopher Kruegel

Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS), Harvard University, USA, June 2010


The online adult industry is among the most profitable business branches on the Internet, and its web sites attract large amounts of visitors and traffic. Nevertheless, no study has yet characterized the industry’s economical and security- related structure. As cyber-criminals are motivated by financial incentives, a deeper understanding and identification of the economic actors and interdependencies in the online adult business is important for analyzing security-related aspects of this industry.

In this paper, we provide a survey of the different economic roles that adult web sites assume, and highlight their economic and technical features. We provide insights into security flaws and potential points of interest for cyber-criminals. We achieve this by applying a combination of automatic and manual analysis techniques to investigate the economic structure of the online adult industry and its business cases. Furthermore, we also performed several experiments to gain a better understanding of the flow of visitors to these sites and the related cash flow, and report on the lessons learned while operating adult web sites on our own.


tags: porn, underground economy