The Silk Road
Well, it turns out if you may have been a little green if you used it to buy – ahem – a little green.
Researchers at Qatar uni and Hamad Bin Khalifa uni shared how simple it might be to find proof of bitcoin spending habits from your misspent youth. If you were clumsy about how you laundered your drug money, you may have left a trail of your jazz fag past.
The researchers found more than 100 cases where they could join the dots between someone’s crypto chronic cash on the dark web to that self same person’s public account. On Silk Road they could even find some bifter buyer’s names and addresses.
Back in the blockchain
Husam Al Jawaheri, one of the researchers from Qatar uni said: “The retroactive operational security of bitcoin is low. When things are recorded in the blockchain, you can go back in history and reveal this information, to break the anonymity of users.”
For some time now, people more clever than me have known that because crypto isn’t controlled by banks or The Man, that it’s pretty tricky to find out someone’s real identity just by looking at their big bag o’ bitcoins. However, the blockchain houses a record of every single transaction anyone anywhere in the world makes. So it’s easy to link a real world person to their wallet unless they’ve gone through lots of hoops to launder the money secretly.
Putting 1 and 1 together and getting weed wasn’t easy though. The researchers trawled through Tor sites scraping the visible addresses from sites like Silk Road. Then, they scraped more publicly available bitcoin addresses from people on Twitter and specialist BTC forums.
Simply running one list against the other found over 125 transactions made to the dark web accounts. It wasn’t all ganja and guns though. 46 were donations to WikiLeaks. Only 22 were Silk Road transactions. No deets were spilled (snitches get stitches and all that), but the research claimed many had publicly revealed their whereabouts, ages, sex, emails, and even their full names. D’oh.
One of the authors of the research, Yazan Boshmaf, said:
“You have irrefutable evidence mapping this profile to this hidden service”
All this was done without any *really* sneaky methods. It was just a quick scrape and comparison. Nothing like the 5-0 have shown they’re willing to do like legally forcing wallet bods Coinbase to give up their users.
How many tree transactions are actually going on now using bitcoin though? Not many it seems. Research firm Chainalysis showed that only 1% of bitcoin spending goes on the dark web. This is down massively compared to the 30% spent in 2012. Nowadays, the sneaky sticky-icky is bought using the cool kid currencies like Monero and Cash because they both have much stronger privacy.
So if kids don’t have enough to worry about with foolish Facebook posts coming up in job interviews and embarrassing them, now they also have to worry about the unremovable history of their naughty nug notifications.