The Bitcoin Blockchain

“It was a permanent record of often-traceable payments that had served as the perfect honeypot, a trap for anyone seeking financial anonymity online in order to commit crime. And it had persisted for years.”

Tracers In The Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency

by Andy Greenberg

“Bitcoin is often portrayed as an untraceable method of payment that facilitates illicit activities by enabling criminals to make and receive payments without being tracked. This depiction implies that users transacting in Bitcoin can do so completely anonymously — that their identities will not be exposed. However, that is not necessarily the case. While Bitcoin offers increased privacy compared to traditional payment methods involving a third-party intermediary such as a credit card provider, it is still not as anonymous as a cash transaction. In fact, there are many ways a person’s identity could potentially be exposed in Bitcoin transactions.”

— FinTech Weekly

The Bitcoin Blockchain — far from being a completely anonymous, distributed ledger of transactions — turned out to be pseudonymous, offering several ways to tie an encrypted transaction to a specific individual.

“But what if the centerpiece of this dark economy held a secret, fatal flaw? What if their currency wasn’t so cryptic after all? An investigator using the right mixture of technical wizardry, financial forensics, and old-fashioned persistence could uncover an entire world of wrongdoing.

Tracers in the Dark is a story of crime and pursuit unlike any other. With unprecedented access to the major players in federal law enforcement and private industry, veteran cybersecurity reporter Andy Greenberg tells an astonishing saga of criminal empires built and destroyed. He introduces an IRS agent with a defiant streak, a Bitcoin-tracing Danish entrepreneur, and a colorful ensemble of hardboiled agents and prosecutors as they delve deep into the crypto-underworld. The result is a thrilling, globe-spanning story of dirty cops, drug bazaars, trafficking rings, and the biggest takedown of an online narcotics market in the history of the Internet.”

I truly enjoyed this engaging page-turner, and found myself looking forward to picking up the book again and rejoining this globe-hopping whack-a-mole adventure.

Over and again, a simple dynamic repeated: a new technology was developed, considered to be rock-solid, but within a few years (or less) turned out to be far weaker than expected: the blockchain, bitcoin mixers, Monero.

Perhaps we might consider looking at an older privacy technology with over 180 years of continual use, Telegraphic Code Books. There may be something of value there, some aspect useful for our modern needs. Much can go wrong (or right) in 180 years — and 180 years of data is quite a luxury.

Link to Amazon book review: https://www.amazon.com/Tracers-Dark-Global-Crime-Cryptocurrency/dp/0385548095/

— Anthony Collette

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