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En route to more perfect crimes? On Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ anonymity and their use by offenders

Starts: 13:00 18 April 2018
Ends: 14:30 18 April 2018
What is it: Seminar
Organiser: School of Law
Who is it for: University staff, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public, Post 16
Speaker: David Decary-Hetu

CCCJ Seminar Series 2017/2018

Illicit markets, whether online or offline, bring together offenders looking to buy and sell goods (ex. illicit drugs, endangered species, stolen financial information) and services (ex. hacking services, money laundering). One of the biggest challenge for illicit market participants is figuring out how to receive payments anonymously for the goods and services they provide. This challenge appeared to be solved when Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, launched in 2009. While marginal for years, Bitcoin’s use and value has grown over the past years to a point where billions of dollars worth of bitcoins are exchanged everyday. Bitcoin, like other cryptocurrencies, promised to offer irreversible, instantaneous and anonymous transactions that are outside of the scope of the monitoring by financial institutions. This seminar will discuss the limits of anonymity of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and show how intelligence can be gathered on offenders who have not adopted the best practices when handling their cryptocurrency. This will be achieved through a presentation and case-study of BitCluster, a bitcoin deanonymizing tool which can help track the flows of money across the bitcoin network. The case study will involve an online illicit market that was closed several years ago. Our results show that using Bitcoin does not provide all the anonymity offenders may want and need and introduce other alternatives to the Bitcoin that could change how offenders operate, enabling them to achieve so-called perfect crimes that leave no trace behind.


David Decary-Hetu

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