Abstract Recent work has demonstrated significant anonymity vulnerabilities in Bitcoin's networking stack. In particular, the current mechanism for broadcasting Bitcoin transactions allows third-party observers to link transactions to the IP addresses that originated them. This lays the groundwork for low-cost, large-scale deanonymization attacks. In this work, we present Dandelion++, a first-principles defense against large-scale deanonymization attacks with near-optimal information-theoretic guarantees. Dandelion++ builds upon a recent proposal called Dandelion that exhibited similar goals. However, in this paper, we highlight simplifying assumptions made in Dandelion, and show how they can lead to serious deanonymization attacks when violated. In contrast, Dandelion++ defends against stronger adversaries that are allowed to disobey protocol. Dandelion++ is lightweight, scalable, and completely interoperable with the existing Bitcoin network. 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A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Anonymous Wallet for Covert Practices
A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Anonymous Wallet for Covert Practices With the recent Bitcoin “bubble” fiasco and the subsequent rise and fall of Bitcoin value, it seems that this subreddit has become obsessed with making money. But get-rich-quick schemes are not at the heart of Bitcoin. Instead BTC should be seen as a way to keep Big Governments and Big Businesses from knowing how much money you have and what you choose to spend that money on. As a currency, it doesn't matter how much the value fluctuates if you plan on spending your wealth on sites like the Silk Road and etc. (OK, maybe it does matter a little bit if the money you spent yesterday is worth twice as much today; but this guide is for spenders, not hoarders. Or at least for hoarders who also like to spend.) Let's discuss my favorite attribute of the Bitcoin protocol: anonymity. Many noobs getting into the Bitcoin game fail to realize that anonymity is an important key to understanding the importance of Bitcoin. In places where your wealth can easily be taking away from you (see Cyprus, Russia, China, the USA and others), Bitcoin can function like a store of cash buried in a dessert in the middle of nowhere – buried so deep that nobody can find it, not even the most powerful men and women on Earth. POINT:If you are purchasing your Bitcoins through services like Coinbase or Mt. Gox, and if you've ever given your real name and bank account information to a Bitcoin Exchange, then you are NOT anonymous. Your Bitcoins can be traced back to you. Your purchases are recorded in the blockchain, and although it's difficult, it's certainly not impossible for those with the knowhow to find you and prosecute you. See this link before continuing. Bitcoin is not inherently anonymous. You must take steps to protect yourself in order to keep your identity a secret. And even still, if you don't know what you are doing, you run the risk of being caught. So if you care about hiding yourself and your money, I offer this guide as a way to accomplish secret purchases and covert trades. Of course I cannot guarantee you won't end up in jail. At the end of the day, nobody knows how closely governments are tracking BTC purchases over the TOR network. Some people even believe that the TOR network was created by nefarious forces. I doubt it, but you never really know. STEP ONE: Anonymous Hardware Because you cannot really know whether or not you are being watched, your first step in creating an anonymous wallet is to protect yourself by buying a cheap laptop computer and removing the hard-drive. Really, who needs a hard-drive anyway? Toss it in the garbage. STEP TWO: Anonymous Software If you don't know how to download a Linux LiveCD, then stop reading now. You are probably not skilled enough to protect yourself anyway. If you don't know how to download a Linux LiveCD, then proceed with extreme caution; downloading an ISO file and burning it to a DVD is pretty damned easy. Easier than anonymity. Those who refuse to learn are at risk. It's arguable which software you should use, but I recommend connecting to the TOR network using TAILS, a live DVD or live USB that aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity. TAILS helps you to use the Internet anonymously, leave no trace on the computer you're using, and to use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, email and instant messaging. ProTip: For an extra layer of protection, download the ISO from your local library's computer. Or while you're sipping a mocha at Starbuck's. Then burn it to a DVD and take it home. Place it in your crap computer (the one without a hard-drive) and turn it on. Enter the BIOS menu and boot from CD if your computer doesn't do it automatically. DO NOT CONNECT TO THE NETWORK FROM YOUR HOME. I repeat, for an extra layer of security, DO NOT CONNECT TO YOUR HOME WIFI USING TAILS IF YOU WANT TO DO SHADY THINGS. That's just common sense. TAILS itself isn't illegal. But if you're the type to do shady things, you don't want to practice on your home Wifi, which you probably pay for with a bank account or credit card. After you've spent a day or two using TAILS and familiarizing yourself with the LinuxOS, and once you feel comfortable enough to continue, then head back to your local Starbucks, boot up the LiveCD, and connect. Browse the TOR network and triple-check that you are protected. You can do this by checking your IP address for DNS LEAKS. Only if you feel comfortably hidden from prying eyes will you want to continue. STEP THREE: Creating an Anonymous Wallet There are several different ways to to this, but the easiest way is to use the code at bitadress.org. Thanks to SpenserHanson for creating this thread which describes the process in detail:
Save bitaddress.org.html to your computer
Disable computer Wi-Fi.
Open bitaddress.org.html in browser.
Generate an address and record the private keys.
Close the browser window.
Go home. Think about what you are about to do.
STEP FOUR: Funding the Anonymous Wallet Funding your wallet will be the most difficult part of this process. Obviously you don't want to go to a site like Coinbase or Mt. Gox and link up you bank account, then start sending coins to your anonymous address. That would be stupid. Very stupid. Probably the best way to get coins is to know someone who is willing to send you a few, but even then you lead a trail back to your friend. My suggestion is to make cash deposits through ZipZap or Bitinstant, and give them false information (for example, use the new email you created, over the TOR network, from a site like Hotmail or Yahoo, which doesn't require a phone number to sign up – I'm looking at you Gmail. Make sure your new account forwards your email to yet another account, perhaps Tormail or a temp address. You probably won't need to use the email more than once anyway, for confirmation, if you need it. And you might want to create a new address with every deposit, just to be safe). There are other options of course. Some companies will sell you Bitcoins anonymously through Bank of America cash deposits. But remember that the moment you walk into a Big Bank and give them money, you are caught on camera. Maybe offer a homeless man some money to make the deposit for you. And hope he doesn't just pocket your money. Regardless, you want to stay away from Big Banks if you can. It really isn't that hard. If you absolutely must make deposits from your bank account, you could send your coins to an anonymous online wallet first and then to cold storage, but make sure to use several mixing services over a period of several days. And then have trouble sleeping at night. Another great idea is to use the localbitcoins website; meet with a seller locally; pay cash and GTFO. STEP FOUR: Spending from the Anonymous Wallet If you are looking to CASH OUT, there aren't many anonymous options besides meeting with somebody and selling face to face. You could always sign up for your own account at localbitcoins, then hope a buyer contacts you. But this guide isn't about making money, it's about spending your coins. To buy things, you'll want to go to back to the library, connect through TAILS, download a lite client like Electrum and access your account. Every time you want to spend, you will have to re-download, but it should not take more than a few minutes. And though you are probably safe enough to spend directly from the client, if you really want to be safe you should send the funds to a second wallet though a mixing service, then to a third or fourth or fifth wallet, also through mixing services. These “Mixing Wallets” should NOT be created using the TOR network because the TOR exit node may be monitored. I've never had a problem myself, but it's theoretically possible that an attacker could record the password/private keys for the hosted wallet and steal your coins. Which is why you should NEVER USE THE SAME ACCOUNT TWICE. And never access your cold storage wallet through the net. That would be very very bad. To created the mixing wallets you will also need a way to hide your identify without using TOR. The best way to do this is to sign up for a VPN service though a public WiFi hotspot and then pay in Bitcoin. The best service I have found is called Private Internet Access. You can access their service through a public computer, connect to the VPN, and voila, you now can safely create mixing wallets without exposing your password to the open network. Make sure that after you mix the coins you send them all to a safe, final address, which will be your Spending Wallet. Remaining anonymous will cost your some time and money. With each transaction you're going to have to pay for mixing, and also the transaction fee. And setting up a new email and a new account with every transaction (so that you can spread the coins across multiple fake accounts) will be bothersome but worth it in the long run. You can't put a price on piece of mind when it comes to your safety. REMEMBER Your Spending Wallet should not contain all of your funds. The bulk of your coins should be address you created using bitaddress. Never trust an online service to hold the bulk of your funds. The recent hacks have shown that the best place to store your private key is in your head. Final Notes: The Bitcoin protocol itself is not anonymous. And theoretically it's possible to trace every transaction back to you. This is why you need to use fake emails, many multiple addresses, and a VPN service with heavy encryption. Even with the knowledge and the technology to map the blockchain, the FEDS will have a hell of a time tracking multiple address though VPN tunneling back to a cold storage wallet that you created offline and only use to send coins over TOR. There are just too many roadblocks. Of course nothing is impossible. But I sleep very good at night knowing that my door is not going to be kicked in by the Men in Black. And even if you're not doing anything illegal, this sort of behavior is certainly suspicious. If you were lucky enough to receive a tip from Reddit's own bitcoinbillionaire (I myself was not) and you haven't cashed out. Create a VPN-tunneled throwaway account and tip yourself before claiming your coins. Then send them through a mixing service and to your cold storage address. Now you're on your way to being an anonymous spender. I hope this guide helps. I really do. The purpose of Bitcoin isn't to make money. It's to protect the money that you already have, and to protect your identity in places where your identity is compromised. Everybody in the world wants your money, especially the richest of the rich. You ought to do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Especially if you live in a compromised geography. TL;DR: Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. EDIT: Some typos.
Why do I believe it was BCN destiny to be born in 2012?
Why do I believe it was BCN destiny to be born in 2012? Just look at this and see yourself: 1983 - Blind signatures were invented by David Chaum link 1997 - HashCash (proof of work system) was invented by Adam Back link 2001 - Ring signatures were invented by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Yael Tauman link 2003 - Mart n Abadi, Michael Burrows, and Ted Wobber presented "Moderately hard, memory-bound functions"link 2004 - Patrick P. Tsang and Victor K. Wei presented their paper "Short linkable ring signatures for e-voting, e-cash and attestation" link 2005 - Matthew Franklin and Haibin Zhang with "Unique Group Signatures" study link 2005 - Exponential memory-bound functions for proof of work protocols by Fabien Coelho link +2006 - "Traceable Ring Signature" by Fujisaki and Suzuki link 2008 - Bitcoin whitepaper by Satoshi Nakamoto link 2009 - Stronger key derivation via sequential memory-hard functions by Colin Percival link 2009 - First Bitcoin block was generated 2010 -2012 - Bitcoin Anonymity Problem Discussions link 2011 - An Analysis of Anonymity in the Bitcoin System, Fergal Reid and Martin Harrigwere link 5/15/2012 - Dorit Ron and Adi Shamir made Quantitative Analysis of the Full Bitcoin Transaction Graph link 6/8/2012 - Bytecoin Wiki started link 6/30/2012 - Bytecoin launch announcement link- first news 7/4/2012 - First BCN block was generated link 8/6/2012 - Destination Address Anonymization in Bitcoin (one-time addresses in BCN) link 10/19/2012 - Evaluating User Privacy in Bitcoin by Elli Androulaki, Ghassan O. Karame, Marc Roeschlin, Tobias Scherer, Srdjan Capkun. link 12/12/2012 -CryptoNote whitepaper v 1.0 link 12/13/2012 - Analysis of hashrate-based double-spending, Meni Rosenfeld link 10/17/2013 - CryptoNote whitepaper v 2.0 link Here we see how the technology logically came to the advent of cryptocurrencies with ring signature and memory-bound function PoW implementation. Soon after Bitcoin's release the community started to raise concerns about its anonymity with multiple solutions and propositions. High concentration of theoretical papers on these topics in 2009-2011 most probably spurred the brightest minds to make attempts of practical e-cash with ring signatures realization. Therefore, BCN couldn't but appear in 2012. Based on https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=512747.msg7093354#msg7093354
Are transactions in bitcoins really anonymous? How many nodes do I need to be connected to?
I am working on a thesis project on bitcoins for my bachelor in economics. Right now I am writing a section about anonymity in the system, and I've found many people not convinced that the system is really anonymous since transactions are all publicly available. I was wandering in particular about some statements made by the authors of “An Analysis of Anonymity in the Bitcoin System” (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1107.4524.pdf?origin=publication_detail) as well as others (see for example https://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/8776098 ). They claim that through TCP/IP traffic analysis they can identify payers but I'm not really convinced by their point, even without considering that i could simply use a browser like tor to hide my IP address, they say that if you are connected to all the nodes at once you can logically assume that the first node to broadcast a transaction is in fact the payer. So my question is: can a node block other nodes from connecting to them? how many nodes do I have to be connected to in order to be ale to broadcast a transaction? Say for example I don't want to be tracked but I also don't want to use tor or similar services, could I be connected to just one trusted node, so that I can send my transactions to that node only and then it would broadcast it to the rest of the network? the thing I have in mind would work similar to a mixing service but a priori and without needing to send my bitcoins, so I just have to trust that the node will transmit my transaction and won't keep my IP address. Does any service like this exist?
A word of caution about exchanges, privacy and your permanent history on the blockchain
I had an account restricted on a major exchange this year and it's not a pleasant experience. Just wanted to share my experience, since I see so many have been through something similar in several exchange-related subreddits. My case happened at Bittrex but I think it's important to note that this may happen on any exchange, not just Bittrex. People are depositing way too much trust in these exchanges and it may come back to bite them. Here's my experience as honestly as I'm able to put it. Bittrex is technically great, contrary to what many say the system just works. Works great in fact, fast and very few glitches in many many years. I think I must've been a very early customer back when things were very informal and until 2020 I had absolutely zero problems with Bittrex. I always thought they were above the pack when it came to system security design and reliability. Despite joining when it was very early, I did full KYC and had the top tier withdrawal limit even though KYC wasn't obligatory back when I joined. I did it all formally because I wanted to have a sort of bank account I could trust, I didn't want to be jumping from exchange to exchange like some crypto traders did. I never used as much as 0.01% of this withdrawal limit, I'm small fish but it was nice to know I could move tons of BTC like the whales if I ever needed to. So I sent them all my real data, work address and so forth. Then Bittrex got moved out of USA and into some country, don't know where. Which was fine by me, I thought it was the same people behind it, doing some formality. Then one day a person with a drawing for a profile pic and some strange username decides to contact me out of nowhere using the Bittrex tech support interface. They know everything about me, but I don't know anything about them. No contact info visible, nothing. This support person sends you a statement you must sign and then based on that they begin to ask for specific documents. I wanted to keep my relationship with Bittrex, so I filled signed and returned it. Then they dived into each item in the thing requesting more documents based on each. So if you said you previously worked for ACME, they'll ask to see ACME related stuff. I said I bought Bitcoin using Bank X, so they wanted to see Bank X statements. And so on. They begin to dig into each specific item you inform. Then it downed on me that maybe I was under some formal audit, in which case I'd have the right to know so I could hire an accountant or lawyer. So I politely asked. They don't tell you anything. You don't even know who the person is on the other side, there is no identification at all of who's contacting you. You're sending all your personal informations to someone who, as far as you know, could be a cat or a dog typing on a random keyboard. So I then asked them why so much detail was needed, since I'd provided lots already. They ignore and just say thank you for your cooperation and proceded to ask for more stuff. I said fine let's do this and went along. Then they asked for specific crypto addresses for the tokens I'd used in the past. Like the address of whoever sent me some XXXX token years ago. I then thought hey man this is too much, do you need me to fax or mail you my ID or something, I'd do it but whatever I enter in there could spell trouble for me. For example, if some guy whose ETH address did something nasty, but coincidentally paid me years ago using that same address, if I gave them my address from the past, in those several years it could mean this person is now a wanted criminal and it'd spell trouble for me, who knows what the person did afterwards, then my account would be forever linked to that rogue address. I began to reflect on this and thought wait, this is not good, I could put myself into a 'bad address' database for no reason. Then I told them I would not send the crypto addresses. They said thanks let's continue the process. It felt weird overall, it just keeps going and demanding more information. I then asked for someone to speak to or somewhere physical I could go to, to talk and show that I'm a real person, they never reply anything, they just ask for more. So I finally gave up and stopped replying and they apparently restricted my account or something. I'll have to go back and reopen the ticket and request account reactivation but then they'll probably restart the same process again. I'm not really that much of a fan of crypto these days, so I'm thinking maybe it's time to call it quits. The reason I'm writing this is to let everyone know that whatever you do in crypto gets forever linked to you. You begin thinking it's some informal thing and that there's some freedom but there really isn't. You may fool around with crypto but then someone is recording everything and will demand you make everything formal in the future. When I joined Bittrex everything was more informal in crypto, even shapeshift and others allowed you to trade crypto with no ID at all, 100% anonymous. Heck even faucets gave out free Bitcoin back in the day. Then all of a sudden everything you do in these exchanges will be audited and you'll need to provide formal documents for everything you did in the past 10 years. Some anonymous operator (this isn't specific to Bittrex, all of them do it that way) with no office has all your info but you know nothing about them in return. You don't even know where these exchanges are located at all. I saw a Facebook post about Binance not even having a formal country, they're "all over t he place". Sure that sounds cool but...who do you turn to when they demand legal stuff from you? Someone out there has all your financial information but you have nothing, you have no security, no legal protection, nothing and they have everything. So, be careful. This isn't all specific to Bittrex, any exchange can and probably will do the same. Point is crypto is a formal thing and will spell trouble for you in the future. Especially since blockchain analysis is way too primitive still, your addresses could somehow end up in a bad neightborhood. The pandemic kinda reminded me of blockchain transactions, you may end up infected because you have no way to know what others have been doing while you were doing everything right.
TL;DR: Wakey wakey, give a crap about freedom, or accept the consequences. Another Sunday afternoon, another news item about Monero being delisted from a centralized exchange, this time in Australia. Last year it was OKEx and others. Just a few days ago it was Coinspot. It is sort of an open secret that Coinbase is not listing Monero due to external pressures. Today we're hit with news that Kraken will be ceasing Monero trading for AU residents. And you will also recall that Japan and South Korea have made similar moves. It's a near impossibility with me, especially when powered by caffeine, which is most definitely the case today, but I will try to make this brief, sweet and to the point. These are not isolated incidents. There is an International Organization™ in particular orchestrating, behind the scenes, the policies and requirements that financial institutions (crypto exchanges have since joined that category for this purpose) must follow, or else. Here is what bothers me about this. Have you been consulted about this? Anyone you know? Heard of it in the news? Yeah, me neither. You have to know where to look to find some information on what they would like to see happening (we'll get to that in a moment), and often you have to read PDFs with dozens of pages to find the good stuff too. I will leave that as an exercise to the reader. Suffice to say, I have been digging a bit deeper myself, and what I found shocked me. FATF wants nothing less than the complete elimination of anonymity and privacy in financial affairs, even going so far as to consider BANNING peer to peer transactions so that people are forced to interact with each other through exchanges, where data collection is more reliable and certain, effectively obliterating one of the major selling points of cryptocurrency (p2p-ness) with complete disregard for the millions of people who are already onboard with the vision. No privacy and no anonymity, imagine that. Many of you probably already use plastic cards for everything, day in day out, and don't think too much about this stuff. But the fact that an international organization that you have little to zero democratic control over is planning to get rid of class of financial tools that 99.99999% of people don't even realize exists yet should give you pause for concern. The tools I speak of are, of course, digital cash-like cryptocurrencies like Monero. I would like you to PAUSE, daydream a bit, visualize and imagine, what a world without zero financial privacy/anonymity would look like. Consider, this has certainly not been the case in human history, ever -- yes, even today. Today most of you still have cash as a choice. But what happens when that goes out of the window, and the only options are CBDCs, CorporateCoins, and transparent cryptocurrency ? Needless to say, both in the case of CorporateCoins and CBDCs, there will be little to none privacy/anonymity, and even if there was (in the case of CorporateCoin), the state would obviously bully its way into it and force them to do otherwise (without being asked to do so, of course). So, imagine that world. Every donation you make. Every $50 transfer to a friend or family member. Every item you buy. Every service you purchase. Every money you send to help a friend you. All of it stored, forever, to be accessed later at will for whatever reasons. Would you make the same choices, knowing that your entire financial life is entirely exposed to powerful organizations of which you likely know very little about and almost certainly can hardly ever influence at all? Does that seem like a good recipe for a free society?
The people at the top either don't care about the consequences of what they're imposing worldwide, or they don't understand. Sounds highly concerning to me either way - It comes down to either bullying or ignorance. Would you ever have truly heart-to-heart conversations if you knew your worst enemy was potentially watching and recording everything? Could you make passionate love knowing hundreds of strangers are analyzing your every move? Can you be spontaneous knowing you are being recorded? What if you did not have a choice in those matters ?! What if someone has already decided for you, your friends, your family, your neighbors, your country, that you are all potential criminals and the thing to do is to keep records on everyone, just in case ? Newsflash: It already happened. It's been happening for awhile, and it seems to be picking up pace; the technology that was going to liberate us, slowly enslaving us instead -- because the general public largely does not understand the issues at hand, while the elite certainly does, and boy oh boy, are they thrilled with the technological advancements that help them cement their power. What do I mean by cement? Imagine trying to kick-start civil rights in a place where every social map is known, everything a person is interested in is known, every transaction they make is known, every website they have visited is known, every time they step on the street, an AI-powered camera automatically identifies them and tracks their movement. You would be unable to organize. To exchange value. To discuss behind curtains, so to speak. You would not have any privacy, and you would not have any anonymity. Could you be free under these circumstances?
It's been a long road towards more freedom, but nowdays it is disappearing fast. Stopping to consider the implications is a most pressing issue. They want Monero(-like tools) GONE because Monero ACTUALLY would change the paradigm. By the time they are done with their "recommendations" (which really mean: comply, or else...), mark my words, there will be a name behind every Bitcoin address in some centralized database, query-able by partners in deciding who can and cannot use the system. Merchants will be forced to perform chain analysis and by law they will be compelled to reject/refund/report transactions coming from "anonymous clusters" (addresses that are not known to have an identity tied to them). This is what the normalization of the lack of privacy has brought us. The possibility was there, and they took it. Of course they did. I repeat, it is no accident that it's not Dogecoin and Nano, Bitcoin or Litecoin being delisted. The star of the show (for better or for worse) is Monero, and that is because it works. It lets you transact anonymously and privately, like cash - why the hell should FATF know that you sent $500 to your mother last week? in fact, why the hell should they know your entire financial history?! When cash goes (and we can be fairly certain that it will be gone; would already be gone if this sort of authoritarian mindset had its way), Monero or tools like Monero, will become the only way to make any transaction outside the eyes of the state. It's not because you have anything (nefarious) to hide. It's not because you're a criminal. Rather, it's because to accept anything else is to bow to tyranny. It's your choice to make - are you meekly going to accept that in perhaps less than a decade there will be zero privacy and anonymity in financial matters, or are you going to fight back? Will you organize, campaign, email, discuss, spread awareness? Will you spend precious summer Sunday afternoons writing for strangers on the Internet trying to help a few more see the major shit-show we're headed into? Or will you be a good boy and do what you're told? Tomorrow, by the way - if left unchallenged - it won't just be financial privacy that disappears. One of the most prominent examples in the introductory part of this post (Australia) has already made quite clear that they don't like the fact that people can hide things from them (encryption). In other words, either they know about it (and archive it forever), or you better let them know. After all, a threat - any threat! - could be lurking somewhere in that encrypted data. And you have nothing to hide anyway, yes? This is a cryptocurrency sub though so let's not steer too far from that. It is important to remember that ultimately the issue is the same though - totalitarian control over everyone's life; mass-surveillance, and the ability to rewind and see someone's entire life exposed for the benefit of the state. Their actions are letting you know what really works and what really threatens the status quo. That is useful information. If you care at all about the freedom and privacy of your future self, your friends and family, children present or future, I think you would do well to think long and hard about these issues. Because the direction assumed by the most prominent regulators seems to be headed in a uniform direction - that is no surprise, seeing as how they meet with each other. You have to ask yourself though, is this for your benefit, your safety? Or is it to keep the statuo quo? How would the world be different if human beings - regardless of color, nationality, age, sexual orientation, political beliefs- with an Internet connection could freely exchange value privately and anonymously (the way we can still communicate private and anonymously in most places today - though not so in authoritarian places like China, AND THAT IS NOT A COINCIDENCE)? It would be instant, like an instant message. It would cost very little. Well, I have news for you: It's already possible, and a growing number of people are realizing this. This tool is called Monero. It exists today, and the cat is out of the bag. The technology will only get better, and more interesting tools may even come along later. In fact, barring mass persecution of open-source developers, that is very likely what is going to happen, as ultrasmart people everywhere congregate in virtual spaces to discuss better ways to do stuff. If we keep losing our right to be left alone until suspected of a crime, life will increasingly come to resemble what the regulator types are - consciously or unconsciously - creating: a Panopticon society. If you don't speak up, then the decision has already been made - and you're probably going to live to regret being complicit in it. Freedom or Tyranny. It's your choice to make. p.s: Yes, totally failed at making this short. I guess it's just not my thing.
[Table] IAmA dark web expert, investigative journalist and true crime author. I’ve met dark web kingpins in far flung prisons and delved the murky depths of child predator forums. I’ve written six books and over a dozen Casefile podcast episodes. AMA (part 2/2)
Around here nobody talks about the argument that increased regulation of the internet would help stop child predators. Is that true, and if so where do you fall on the Net Neutrality vs law enforcement spectrum?
No I don't think that's true at all. Child predators have been around much longer than the internet, and I would argue child abuse was more prevalent 50+ years ago when children were seen and not heard and it wasn't talked about. The dark web hasn't created more predators, it has just given them a new place to gather and hang out.
The one thing I found really interesting when I was lurking the forums of the child predators was their frustration about how children are now taught from a very young age that certain touching and acts are wrong and that they shouldn't keep certain secrets. It came up over and over again that they could not abuse certain children because they knew those children had someone they would tell. It was pretty clear that education was a child's best defence against getting abused.
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That's so interesting, thanks for the AMA! Can you remember any other thing that a child could do in order to protect himself from being abused? What other characteristics do the abusers hate in potential victims?
That seems to be the main one. Kids who speak up and who have close relationships with one or more people they are likely to confide in
What do folks talk about in the child predator forums? Do they like give each other advice on how to improve their craft?
Yes, quite literally. The give each other tips on how not to get caught, how to edit out incriminating details in videos, how to drug children, techniques for convincing kids not to tell etc
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Given your insight into how predators operate, do you have any advice for parents on protecting their kids?
I'll cut'n'paste a response i gave to someone else about this, because it was something that really stuck out to me:
The one thing I found really interesting when I was lurking the forums of the child predators was their frustration about how children are now taught from a very young age that certain touching and acts are wrong and that they shouldn't keep certain secrets. It came up over and over again that they could not abuse certain children because they knew those children had someone they would tell. It was pretty clear that education was a child's best defence against getting abused. Kids who speak up and who have close relationships with one or more people they are likely to confide in
Has the exponential increase in Bitcoin value affected darknet dealers in any profound way? I can imagine that some drug dealers were sitting on quite a large sum of Bitcoin when the value shot up.
Crypto purists hate to admit it, but bitcoin would not be where it is today without Silk Road. It was sitting at less than a dollar when Silk Road began and the markets showed a robust use case for cryptocurrency and as the markets grew, so did the demand for bitcoin. It also provided real-life use data for those who were not interested in drugs but who weren't sure if it had practical application. When SR went down, Bitcoin was at about $650 and it continued to grow as adoption became more mainstream. There are many many stories of drug dealers (and at least one faux-hitman!) who gained most of their wealth not by selling the drugs, but by the growth in value of their bitcoin holdings
Since you have a lot of experience with them online. Do you think pedophiles(not child abusers) should be treated as criminals, or as people suffering from a mental illness?
Contact offenders should be treated as criminals, because they are criminals. They have abused or hurt someone. Same with those who support the creation and dissemination of child abuse materials.
Pedophiles who do not act on their urges should be given as much help as humanly possible.
Are there any mysterious or suspicious pages or communities that you haven’t been able to access? Anything that seems especially weird?
there are a lot of Russian communities that I can't access, mostly because I don't speak Russian. Some of the more technical hacking communities have entry barriers that I'm not technical enough to score an invite to
How much these bad people really exist out there? Hundreds? Thousands? More?
It depends what you mean by bad. If you mean people who use the dark web to buy drugs (who I do not consider bad) then there are many many thousands. There are also thousands of people who deal in stolen information to make money.
Unfortunately there are also thousands of child predators and the dark web has provided a "safe space" for them to come together to share materials and "tips". I hope this is where most of the resources of law enforcement are concentrated
Ehy mine is a rare question: what do you know about art on dark web? I'm talking about the black market made of stolen important pieces from museums, art used as value to money laundry and other criminal affairs I'm an artist and what I know is people don't think too much about the dark side of art and probably they need to open their eyes about
I really haven't come across much in the way of that. Some of the markets have an "art" section, but that is mostly blotter art
How accurate are the legends?
Any legends in particular? For a lowdown copied from a post I made in another forum:
1Red Rooms ￼ The one that is most persistent is the myth of the "Red Room" - live streaming of torture/rape that ends in the murder of the victim and which people can pay to watch, or even bid to type in commands for the torturer to carry out (highest bid wins!). The most famous was the “ISIS Red Room” pictured above, where people could provide instructions to torture captured terrorists - you can read what happened here.
People have this idea of Hostel with webcams exist all over the dark web, but you just need an invite to get into them. It's ridiculous. They don't exist. They certainly wouldn't exist on Tor. But people are desperate to believe and they always come back with "You can't prove they don't exist, people are crazy, therefore they must exist." Picture my eyes rolling here.
I don't think many people are taken in by the hitmen sites anymore, though the press loves playing up the fact that there are sites offering up hitman services. But every single one of them has turned out to be a scam, especially Besa Mafia, the one that did the most marketing. Again, you can read about it at the same link as above.
3.Exotic animals ￼ People are always asking where they can find markets for exotic animals. Obviously the illegal trade in exotic animals exists, and some communications and transactions may well take place over Tor, but there are no markets like the drug markets where you can go and look at a picture and then put a tiger or ocelot or something into your basket and buy it with bitcoin.
SO WHAT DOES HAPPEN ON THE DARK WEB?
1.People buy and sell drugs.
The drug markets are more busy than ever. You have probably heard of Silk Road, the most famous online drug market that got busted a few years ago and the owner sent to prison for two consecutive life terms? A lot of people thought that was the end of drugs being sold on the dark web. In fact, dark web sales of drugs have tripled since the shutdown of Silk Road.
The reason people buy drugs this way is that for many they offer a safer alternative for people who are going to do drugs anyway. There is no possibility of any violence. The vast majority of the time a buyer knows exactly what they are getting, because of the feedback and rating system. That's not the case in a nightclub, or even friends-of-friends, where you just blindly accept that the pill, powder or tab is what the seller says it is.
2.People buy and sell other illegal things
Mostly they buy and sell stolen credit cards and financial information, fake IDs (though lots of these are scams), personal information, “dumps” of hacked data and fraud-related items. For a long time, a seller was making a fortune selling fake discount coupons that really worked.
3.People access and create childporn ￼ Unlike the other markets, the CP market is generally not for money, but rather they are groups who swap vile images and videos for free. The worst of the worst is called “hurtcore’. Thankfully, most of the people behind the worst sites have been arrested and put in jail.
4.People talk about stuff
There are plenty of sites, forums and chatrooms where people talk about all sorts of things - conspiracies, aliens, weird stuff. They take advantage of the anonymity.
5.People anonymously release information
Whistleblowers use the dark web to release information and make sure their identities won't be compromised. You will find Wikileaks, for example, on the dark web.
6.People surf the web anonymously
The number 1 thing people use the dark web for is just to surf the web completely anonymously. Not everybody wants to be tracked by advertisers.
I have a question: what are the odds of the casual Darkweb drug buyer - not buying mega loads all the time - the occasional purchase - what are the risks of being busted? Kinda figuring pretty low. But you’re the expert. What do you think?
Obviously there is always a risk, but the risk is very low. It is rare for personal amounts to be seized. Even if a package is seized, there's usually no resources to follow it up. Many people report simply receiving a letter from Customs saying they have seized what they believe is contraband and the person has a choice of going to claim it or it will be destroyed. Even if LE does knock on the door there is plausible deniability: "I don't know who sent that stuff to me".
So yeah, rare, but it does happen. You might be the unlucky one
How do you find things on the dark web without search engines?
There are a lot of entry sites, set up with links to the most popular places. You can generally get a link to one of them by browsing places like reddit. From there it is a matter of checking out different places, people will put links in forums etc.
I also use a Pastebin where people paste sites they have made/found, and a Fresh Onion site, which crawls all the newly-populated .onion addresses
Hi. there!! Thank you for answering questions. Mine is very simple. How do sellers get the drugs to people? Regular mail? That's always puzzled me bc I'd assume USPS, UPS, fedEx or any other mail carrier would catch at least some goods.
If people are ordering drugs, particularly in powder form, for personal use, they can be flattened, sealed in MBB (moisture barrier baggies) and sent in a regular business envelope, indistinguishable from billions of other envelopes going through the postal system every day. The chances of a particular package being intercepted is very low.
Some people take the extra precaution of having the person taking delivery of the drugs different to the person/household that is ordering them.
How did you move from being a corporate lawyer to researching and writing about dark web?
I was in London, working for one of the most conservative law firms in the world when the Global Financial Crisis hit. I liked the job but it struck me when people were losing their livelihoods that I was working for the bad guys. I'd always wanted to be a writer so when I came back to Australia I quit law and enrolled in a writing course planning to be a novelist, but I discovered I was better at journalism. I first wrote for newspapers here about Silk Road and it grew from there
I've always wanted to check out the dark web, what is a normal day for you look like on there? Can you give me any tips on how to safely surf the dark web?
A normal day looks like me sitting at my desk writing things on my computer. When I'm researching a book or a case I venture away from my computer to trials and to interview people (at least I did pre-COVID)
There is nothing inherently unsafe in surfing the dark web. All the usual precautions you take surfing the clearweb apply. Don't visit any child exploitation sites - it will be pretty obvious that's what they are by the names/descriptions before you log in.
It is only when you want to do more than surfing - e.g. buying drugs etc - that you need to do a LOT of homework or you will absolutely get scammed
Is there anything good about the dark web?
It depends what you are into. A lot of academic research has concluded that the darknet markets provide a safer way for people to buy and use drugs, due to the ratings of vendors, services that independently test and report back on batches of drugs, doctor on staff ready to answer questions, no violence in transactions etc.
News sites provide a dark web option so that whistleblowers can safety provide information and upload documents that get stripped of any identifying metadata before being available.
It bypasses firewalls and allows for secure communications under hostile regimes
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How does this make you feel about the idea of the decriminalization of drugs?
I've always been for full legalization of drugs, and studying the darknet markets just proved I was right.
I was invited to an experts roundtable in Portugal about drugs and cybercrime a few years ago and the Portugal model of decriminalisation has been a great success
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Hey, you are still answering. Been reading this thread for 1-2 hours now. Thank you so much for all the good work and info! Always been intrigued by this topic, downloaded tor once to explore a bit but couldn’t and deleted it right away, to be on the safer side. Great insights. Thanks!
I've been writing it for about 14 hours. Going a bit loopy
How was working on Casefile? What's the production process like? Which episodes did u do?? I have listened to... all of them....
I absolutely LOVE working for Casefile. I am a freelancer, so I source and write my own cases and then sell the scripts to Casefile. I've done at least a dozen, but some of my most popular are Amy Allwine, Mark & John, Ella Tundra, Leigh Leigh, Rebecca Schaeffer...
As for the production process, once I have sold the script to them, a staff member edits them and then they are passed on to Casey to narrate. After that, they go to Mike for sound editing, music etc. They are the best team ever
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Oh, Leigh Leigh was so well written!! How do you choose which stories to write? Do you just pick true crime you're interested in?
Thank you! I have a huge list of potential episodes. Any time I come across an interesting crime on reddit, or in the news or wherever I make a note of it. Then I just pick one when it comes time to write a new script.
Sometimes I've been personally involved (e.g. Amy Allwine), gone to trials etc. Those are always the best ones
Hi Eiley, your twitter just reminded me of this AMA :) What are your thoughts on bitcoin? And would you prefer to be paid in crypto or fiat?
OOOOH, I know that name! Love & Light to you!
I like Bitcoin and I wish I had a whole lot of it and like many many people, I wish I had kept the first crypto I bought at something like $4 a coin :D I do not have a whole lot of it but I do have a little bit. I like the philosophy behind it and in theory it should change the world. However the reality is that the vast majority of it is concentrated in a very few hands which allows for market manipulation and stops it being useful as a post-fiat currency.
As long as I'm getting paid, I'm pretty happy!
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I too remember your name Pluto! Such a decent human ❤
he is!! True OG right there <3
Is the dark web subject to more racism than its counterpart, the world wide web?
There are some white power sites and that sort of thing and the chans are even more uncensored than the clearweb ones (4chan, 8chan) but to be honest they are the same cesspools in different spots. Drug forums don't seem to be very racist. I've seen worse on Twitter
Have you seen any consequential political or social organizing being carried out on the dark web?
Not directly, but the dark web helped facilitate the Arab Spring uprising in 2010 by allowing activists to remain anonymous and to access blocked websites and social media. Wikileaks, obviously. Some white supremacy organizations seem to use it to coordinate attacks, but they are not places I'm keen to hang out in.
What’s the most expensive thing for sale you’ve seen on the dark web? What was surprisingly inexpensive?
I can't remember specific listings, but there were sometimes sales of things like coke by the kilo, so that sort of thing I guess.
LSD could easily be found for $1/tab and one huge dealer gave it away for free if it was for personal use
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1. I’m going to ask a couple in hopes that one will catch your interest! I know you’re anonymous on the dark web, but even so, have you ever felt worried about your safety?
I actually made the decision to be upfront and honest about who I am on the dark web, so I use the name OzFreelancer (which is easily traceable to my real name) on all the dark web sites where i went looking for interviews. The people there had the option of talking to me or not, so they had no reason to want to harm me.
2. I’ve found your comments about your relationship with Yura fascinating. Did y’all develop a friendship? Did you build any other relationships that stand out in your mind? Since you were straightforward about being on the dark web for stories, did people seem reluctant to communicate, or were they excited for the opportunity to divulge a secret?
We do have a friendship of sorts, it is really quite weird. I do hope to met him one day. I met all of the senior staff of Silk Road other than the Dread Pirate Roberts himself and keep in touch with some. Some people wanted nothing to do with me of course, but many more were happy to talk to me. i think sometimes it was a relief to them to be able to talk to one person who they knew was who they said they were.
3. On violent forums, did users ever express remorse, guilt, shame, or anything indicative of some recognition that what they were viewing/seeking was awful? Do you see doxxing teams on the dark web working together to uncover info, or is the info already there through previous hacks/breaches, and someone just accesses and releases it? Sorry if any of those don’t make sense! I’m not familiar with the dark web lingo but am so intrigued by your work.
Not really. I think if they were contributing to the forums, they were comfortable with who they were and what they were doing. Many of the "regular" pedophiles expressed revulsion about Lux and hurtcore sites though
these have probably been asked before but has there ever been a time where you where genuinely been scared for your life and whats the most messed up thing you've witnessed did you have any help?
Yeah both things have been answered in this thread, so I'll cut'n'paste
The only time I've felt even slightly in danger despite all this nosing around in there was when I helped uncover a hitman scam. The owner of Besa Mafia, the most profitable murder-for-hire site in history, came after me when I started writing about him. He made loads of threats ("you don't know who I am, but I know who you are and where you live") but that wasnt scary, as I had access to the backdoor of his site thanks to a friendly hacker and knew he didn't really want to hurt anybody.
It took a bit of a darker turn when he told the people who had signed up to work as hitmen on his site - and who he made video themselves burning cars with signs on them to advertise how legit his site was, then never sent them the promised money for doing so - that I was the owner of the site who had ripped them off. That could have become ugly, but luckily even the thugs weren't dumb enough to believe him.
The only other time I've been a bit nervous was when Homeland Security wanted to have a "friendly" meeting with me on one of my trips to the US to attend a trial. They were friendly, but scary too.
The most frightening experience I've ever had is coming face to face with Lux, the owner of Pedoempire and Hurt2theCore, the most evil and reviled person on the entire dark web. He was responsible for procuring and hosting Daisy's Destruction, the most repulsive video ever made, created by Peter Scully, whose crimes were so bad, the Philippines are considering reinstating the death penalty especially for him.
It wasn't frightening because Lux was frightening - he was anything but. It was frightening because he looked so inoffensive and normal.
It was frightening because he was living proof that monsters walk among us and we never know.
It is absolute crap for browsing the clearweb, and a lot of sites detect that it is odd traffic and you have to solve their CAPTCHAs before doing the most basic things
I’m sure you’ve seen some really bad stuff, do you regularly talk to a therapist to help?
I've never seen a therapist (they don't really seem to be a thing in Australia they way they are in the US), but I have been known to unload on my partner and my dog
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Yo, speaking as an Aussie, they absolutely are a thing, you can get them covered thru medicare, and I recommend it if you possibly can! Bro, therapy is awesome.
I'm not against therapy as a thing, but I've honestly never been so traumatised that I feel I need it. Also I had a bad experience with a psychologist after I watched my partner die in an accident - they suggested I find God, and I noped out of there
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Therapist is an American term- we call them psychs. And the one who told you to find God was terrible and out of line.
Yeah she didn't last long before I was over it. Also a doctor decided I needed Xanax, which was also a bad move, because what I really needed was to grieve and Xanax doesn't let you do that properly
Do you find any good things on the dark web? Happy stuff that gives people hope? Or just the trash?
I like the psychonaut communities. They just want peace, love and mungbeans for everybody
Have you heard of "The Primarch System" rumor of the dark web? Sounds downright silly to me. But I'm curious if anyone who spends time on the deep web actually takes it seriously, or if as an idea it is connected to anything serious at all.
Nah, up there with the Shadow Web and Mariana's Web. There's always people who want to find out where the "deeper" "more secret" "really dark" stuff is. To them I say what, hurtcore isn't dark enough for you?
Doesn't delving the murky depths of child predator forums categorize you with the child predators in the eyes of an investigating law enforcement agency? Do you have some sort of amnesty due to your journalism, or is that something you worry about having to explain away? Has your presence there ever caused some sort of a scare?
No, I never went into any of the sites that had actual photos or videos (you can't un-see that shit), but did spend a lot of time in pedophile discussion forums. I also went to a hurtcore hearing and saw screenshots in the police files, as well as listening for two days to videos being described frame-by-frame and private communications between the site owner and the sadists.
Besides drugs and sex crimes, what else is going on in the dark web? Are there other interesting nooks and crannies?
I often post screenshots of bizarre sites I find on my Twitter. However, the main uses for the dark web are drugs, digital/fraud goods and child exploitation
I have one, it might be rather boring though, but here goes. On these "child predator forums" are they actually forums devoted to stalking children and do they share social media profiles of children among themselves? That would be kik ids, snapchat and facebook ids, instagram, stuff like that, info that would allow online access and that may have been chosen for suitability? Creepy question I know, but anyway I would be interested to hear your answer. I came here from TrueCrime, you referred to these things in your post on that sub. I suspect I already know the answer yet would like to hear your take on it.
Yes, they provide information and tips on how to approach children, how to ensure they won't tell, how to sedate them in some instances, where to find child exploitation material, how to remove metadata and any identifying characteristics in photos and videos before sharing and so on.
They don't tend to share socia media, as that is the sort of thing that can be traced easily. They do talk about how to approach kids on social media and on the worst forums how to blackmail children into stripping/meeting etc
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So you're saying they have a more general approach rather than identifying individual children on the internet? Again a creepy question because what I suggest is that a child's social media could be used and circulated on the dark web as potential information to gain access by anonymity, even if it was just online access only. I actually wonder as I have recently read of the anonymity of apps like ''kik messenger'' and how the police are often unable to get any information from the communications as they remain encrypted and off the server and require little if any valid ID to make an account.
No doubt photos from social media are uploaded as part of the materials they have. I haven't seen anything where they get together and try to track down a specific child, but I'm sure some predators do this. Most are more likely to abuse children in their orbit - family, kids of friends, or they work where they have access to children
I heard there are forums to download books but it was really dangerous, Is it true? I'm just a poor guy who wants to finish the young Jack sparrow series
Whenever you download anything from a pirate site you run the risk of infection
What do you think of QAnon?
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Who should the conspiracy theorists actually be worried about if they actually care about thwarting pedophilia?
The vast, vast majority of child abuse takes place within the child's personal orbit - relatives, family friends, parents of their own friends, people involved in their activities (coaches, leaders, etc)
So, those people
the below is another reply to the answer
Also how to we get people to stop believing in QAnon?
Outside my area of expertise, sorry
do you personally believe there was/is any truth to the "defense" (story) that DPR was a title handed down to different admins for the original silk road, or was it just a convenient defense? do you have any theories as to who satoshi nakamoto is? besides the original SR, are there any other darkweb markets that you think have a good enough story to turn into a book? eg sheep market? i've seen you talk a little about the child predator forums, and (as with h2tc) noted are mainly populated by males. i'm curious if you've ever encountered females on such forums/websites (eg. btfk)
No. There was a time that I believed the person posting on the forums as DPR changed, but the ownership and administration of the market I believe never changed hands. Variety Jones is claiming a part ownership (which may or may not be true) but I believe that is so he can run a Fourth Amendment argument
So many theories have some credibility to them, but no one theory ticks all the boxes. Highly recommend the 3-part youtube deep dive by Barely Sociable
I'm not sure any one market has the story that Silk Road had, but I would like to write a definitive history that encompasses the most compelling features of all the markets. Backopy of BMR apparently got away clean. The admins of Atlantis got wind of a security issue and closed shop, trying to warn DPR. AlphaBay ended in Alexander Cazes death in a Bangkok prison cell. Then everyone flocked to Hansa, which by that time was being run by law enforcement. Evolution ended in the most brazen exit scam, followed by a bizarre cloak'n'dagger situation played out right here on reddit. The WSM/DDW follow-the-money case. And these are just some that come right off the top of my head. I just need a publisher to provide me an advance I can live off while I write it!
There were a very few people on the forums who identified as female (obvs anyone can be anyone on a dark web forum) and there have been one or two arrests of women in relation to dark web child pornography. Peter Scully's female assistant who carried out some of the torture was originally one of his victims, turned into a sadist.
What’s the one lingering unanswered question you have about SR?
I am hanging out for Joel Ellingson to go to trial so that I can find out once and for all whether redandwhite, lucydrop and Tony76 are one and the same person.
There are several people who I got to "know" by their handles who I wonder about from time to time, but mostly I hope they are safe and well and i don't want to track them down or expose them
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Eileen, I am fangirling PRE-TTY hard right now. Talking SR and Tony76 with you is how I imagine it feels to talk to a royal correspondent about Prince Andrew 😅 Ellingson being all three would be a very neat end to an otherwise insane story. Part of me wants to pin Oracle in with that trio too but that’s mostly a desperate attempt from me to add another layer to the madness. I miss the twists and turns that came with the rise and fall of SR. From your own experience - would you agree with the idea that more than one person staffed the DPR account? Thanks for the reply!
Ha! You have no idea what it is like when I find someone who really knows about this stuff and can have informed conversations about it. I latch onto them and don't let go. The very BEST was meeting up with DPR's three deputies (SSBD in Australia, Inigo in US and Libertas in Ireland) so I could actually have conversations with people who knew more than I did! Variety Jones was cool too, but the conversation couldn't flow too freely thanks to him being incarcerated in Bangkok prison at the time.
I think others sometimes posted from the forum account, but Ulbricht kept a vice-like grip on his market account
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I can imagine it’s so satisfying and exciting to get those tidbits of info that piece the jigsaw together. The bedlam that played out over the forum in the aftermath was a cloud of paranoia and adrenaline that kept me refreshing pages for days. Would love to hear accounts from SSBD, Inigo and Libertas from this time. One last question: what were your thoughts when the Chloe Ayling story first broke?
I assumed it was a publicity stunt. I don't think that any more. I guess I can't blame her for milking her kidnapping for publicity in the aftermath, though I don't think she does herself any favors the way she goes about it sometimes
Sorry if this has been covered before but in your research, mainly related to child abuse, where are these children coming from? Children in their care/ family? Kidnapped?
The vast majority of child abuse is carried out by someone within their social circle - family and acquaintances. However, the hurtcore stuff was often carried out in third world countries on orphans or where desperate families gave up their children to "benefactors" who they believed were going to provide food an education
What Casefile episodes have you written? I became obsessed with it and ripped through all the episodes and now nothing will fill that void. Thanks for your efforts!
Casefile – the murder of Amy Allwine
Casefile – Blue Skies, Black Death
Casefile – Ella Tundra
Casefile – Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs
Casefile – Motown Murders
Casefile – Rebecca Schaeffer
Casefile – Sian Kingi
Casefile – John & Mark
Casefile – Shauna Howe
Casefile – Chloe Ayling
Casefile – Johnny Altinger
Casefile – Killer Petey
Casefile – The Santa Claus Bank Robbery
Casefile – Martha Puebla
Casefile – Leigh Leigh
Is there any way parents can keep their kids safe from this without being helicopter parents?
I'll cut'n'paste a response i gave to someone else about this, because it was something that really stuck out to me:
The one thing I found really interesting when I was lurking the forums of the child predators was their frustration about how children are now taught from a very young age that certain touching and acts are wrong and that they shouldn't keep certain secrets. It came up over and over again that they could not abuse certain children because they knew those children had someone they would tell. It was pretty clear that education was a child's best defence against getting abused. Kids who speak up and who have close relationships with one or more people they are likely to confide in
What does it take in terms of degrees and experience to get into this business?
Nothing official. I was a lawyer, but that had no bearing on what I do now (I did corporate law). I didn't have any official credentials when I began as a freelance journalist, though later I got a diploma of professional writing and editing. Anyone can be an author, provided they can write
If you could take a guess from your findings, what would be some speculative statistics on these abuse/torture sites? How many people (tens of thousands?) are involved? Do they generally come from the same places in the world or are they seemingly geographically random (based on victim ethnicity, or language spoken, perhaps)... what are some quantifying stats to wrap our heads around how prevalent this shit is?
Most dark web users come from western countries, just because infrastructure supports it. The sites often have tens of thousands of registered users, but a lot of them would be people for whom curiosity got the better of them and who signed up then left. Active users more like in the thousands, hyper-active users the hundreds.
One of the things that makes life difficult for law enforcement is that most of these sites don't operate on a commercial basis - people aren't making money from them, so there is no cryptocurrency chain to follow. They operate on a sharing basis and to get access to the more private parts of the sites, a user has to upload "fresh" material and/or prove they are actively abusing a child. Hurt2theCore used to get users to have the children hold up signs or have the site name or a username written on their bodies with a marker. This stopped law enforcement from getting access to those parts (like the "producers lounge") of the sites unless they were able to take over an account of a user who already had access. Even then, the rules of the hurtcore sites would require constant new proof in order to maintain access.
Some sites allowed people to buy access, such as one called "Welcome to Video" and then were taken down by law enforcement carrying out blockchain analysis of the Bitcoin transaction that led to the owner when they cashed out to fiat without moneylaundering precautions
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Do you think LE uses deep fakes to simulate a picture to gain access? Is that possible?
It is definitely possible, but I don't know whether they are doing it as they are understandably secretive about their methods. I know it is deeply problematic, as even fake child porn is still illegal (even cartoon stuff, including some Hentai in some countries). But they have used questionable methods before, most notably running the dark web's largest site, Playpen, for over a year in order to identify contact offenders
the below is another reply to the original answer
Am I hearing you that many people are NOT doing this for financial gain? Just to do it and share it??
Child exploitation, yes, it is mostly a sharing community. Some people make some money out of it, but it is not like drugs where a lot of people are making a LOT of money
On the subject of abused kids... did you ever help the kids in any way?
I never met any of the kids. I never saw any of the photos and videos. I don't know who any of the kids are.
Daisy has been taken into care and her identity changed. I hope she is doing okay
What exactly does the dark web look like? You hear about it often, but don’t know if it looks like Google Chrome, Safari, or just a page full of code.
It looks like a normal browser and operates just like a normal browser. It's just that it can access sites that your normal browser can't.
How do you keep yourself from hating all humanity?
I am happy to report that, even on the dark web, the good people outnumber the bad
Hi! First off I'd like to say that I find what you do quite fascinating and would love to do something like that in the future. My question is in regards to art and other forms of artistic expression on the dark web. Is it true that the dark web is a place where you can also find awesome things such as art and literature?
Not really, because all that stuff is readily available on the clearweb. There are sites like the Imperial Library of Trantor, which is a pirate site for books, where you can read thousands of books for free, but that's really no different to The Pirate Bay. Some people share their LSD art, but again, nothing you won't find on the clearweb
The greatest wealth transfer of this century! An analysis: British-US-Chinese Empires: Gold, Silver, Bitcoin, Ethereum!
"Inflation makes you pay 50 dollars for the 20 dollar haircut you used to get for 5 dollars when you had hair!" Let's embark on a journey that made the United States the number 1 economy of the world.
1. Despite the British Empire's claim that it would for ever remain the leading empire,history can serve as a harbinger for what's to come...
At the peak of its power, in 1913, "the empire on which the sun never sets", controlled 25% of the planet's land mass and about the same percentage of the world's population. Britain was both the naval an imperial power of the 19th century, and between 1812-1914, its dominance resulted in relative peace in Europe and the rest of the world. The industrial revolution transformed Britain into the workshop of the world. By the start of the 20th century things changed as both Germany and the United States started to challenge Britain's economic and influential leadership. As often happened during human history such challenging lead to war and although Britain achieved its largest territorial influence after WW1, the war had destroyed much of its economic strength, with losses in industrial and military power marking the begin of its demise. During WW2, Japan occupied Britain's colonies, and after WW2, India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence. Much of the British Empire's influence is now enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, stating shared values like democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The United Kingdom's pound sterling was its world's reserve currency during its reign and by controlling the supply of money, Britain was able to influence its global power. "Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!"Mayer Amschel Rothschild
2. The US Empire repeats this blueprint by claiming the U.S. Dollar's reserve currency status as its birthright!
The Federal Reserve Act. The Panic of 1907 triggered many American's belief that The Federal Reserve Act, passed by the 63rd United States Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913, was necessary for financial and economic stability. The law created the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States. The Bretton Woods System. The FED ended immobile reserve issues and the inelastic currency problems and successfully internationalized the U.S Dollar as the global reserve currency. The usage of the prior nationally used U.S. Dollar expanded a first time when the Allies agreed to the terms of the Bretton Woods System, establishing the rules for commercial as well as financial regulations among the United States and its allies. Canada, Western Europe, Australia and Japan accepted the U.S. Dollar, which was backed by a gold exchange standard, making the U.S. Dollar "as good as gold". This was only possible because the United States controlled two thirds of the world's gold reserves. Soviet representatives, who claimed that institutions like the IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) were Wall Street branches, didn't participate in Bretton Woods and later proved to be right, as the United States printed too much money (not backed by its gold reserves) to wage war on Vietnam, destroying a big part of the value of the U.S. Dollars held by its allies, due to the inflation of the U.S. Dollar money supply. Yet, the initial demand for U.S. dollars created the American way of life: a consumer driven economy fueled by products made outside the U.S. in return for U.S. Dollars. As the Allied countries couldn't really buy any "Made in America"-products, due to the fact that the United States' elites rather outsourced their manufacturing, they instead invested their hard labor into U.S. Treasuries. On August 1971, President Richard Nixon announced the unilateral cancellation of the direct international convertibility of the United States dollar to gold, in a response to halt the Allied countries' continuous attempts to exchange their U.S. Dollars for Gold. By 1973, the Bretton Woods system was replaced by the current freely floating fiat currency system. The petro dollar system. The second wave of U.S. Dollar adoption was the result of the petro dollar, making the global trade of oil U.S. Dollar denominated. Every country on this planet needed and still needs oil to operate and grow its economy, creating an enormous growth in U.S. Dollar demand and like mentioned before, those dollars had to be earned. Especially China served the United States consumer model by producing almost everything Americans can buy in Wall Mart and other stores. By relying on the U.S. Dollar reserve currency status, the American elites have made the mistake of outsourcing manufacturing to China, as often predicted by Donald Trump in the 1980's. The y figured it was easier to just print wealth. The tradewar. President Donald Trump, decided it was time to bring jobs back to the U.S. and started an ongoing trade war with China, the country that supplied the U.S. consumer driven economy, and proud owner of $1.07 trillion in Treasury holdings. The trade war has negatively impacted the economies of both the United States and China and will most likely result in the decoupling of both economies. What is to come? My personal insights. I see huge problems for the U.S. and the rest of the western liberal democracies. But especially the United States, who's currency amounts to no less than 60% of all the world's reserve assets, is vulnerable if and when China who only accounts for 1 or 2 %, says it is time for change. Most likely we will experience another banking crisis, with or without Covid-19, and unfortunately a bigger one when compared to the 2008 dissaster. Did you know that the global debt tripled since then? Many economists and politicians advocate the end of the U.S. Dollar reserve currency system and predict a reset. Every financial system has a limited lifespan similar to a human live: it is created, it grows, it matures, and unfortunately, it ages, weakens and dies. It happened to the Brittish Pound Sterling, and I am afraid that the days of this financial hegemony are numbered as well. And I did write "afraid", why? History tells us that these transition periods are particularly dangerous and have often led to full-blown military conflicts if not world wars. The current wealth transfer, the result of manufacturing outsourcing to mainland China, impoverished the United States and destroyed its middle class. President Donald Trump's analysis that the U.S. needs a strong manufacturing base is correct, yet without its allies the United States will not be able to turn the tide. It took China decades to build its manufacturing base, and President Trump doesn't have the privilege of having the political luxury to design five year plans, as the United States capitalistic and political model specializes more on presidential campaigning and less on economic planning, which is exactly China's strength.
3. The Chinese 'digital' empire.
China is ideally positioned to become the new global power: it produces many of our products and dominates most supply chains. It has been hoarding gold and mines most of the Bitcoin. It might just have the right reserve assets to back its DCEP, the digital Yuan, which will be pilot tested during the 2022 Winter Olympics hosted by China. Despite the fact that the United States and other western nations might not want to adopt the Yuan or allow it to be part of the world's reserve assets, China can demand payment in Yuan for its products. It's that simple! This is why outsourcing is such as stupid economic voluntarily yet fatal policy. If you only print money and don't produce goods, how long will the world play ball? One of the results of Trump's trade war is that China and other countries such as Russia and Iran no longer want to be vulnerable to U.S. sanctions that come in the shape of being denied access to the financial system through Swift. The United States can indeed destroy a big part of Iran's economy, but Iran is now becoming a big cryptocurrency player. In other words, bullying those countries might work in the short-term, but in the long-term they will simply adopt a new standard: and I believe that the Yuan will likely play a major role in the financial system they will adopt. This trend means that the expansion of the demand in U.S. Dollars will stop and reverse, when countries no longer want to use the currency whose issuer can economically destroy them through sanctions. The alternatives for such countires are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and many others, national CBDC's (Central Bank Digital Currencies), and the adoption of the digital Yuan. This digital Yuan will be attached to the One Belt, One road initiative, finding adoption whilst developing huge infrastructure projects that will lead to a Eurasian trading zone. If the U.S. Military leaves the Middle East, as Trump brings home troops, this will create the right conditions for China to emerge as the victor.
4. Surveillance Capitalism - Insights on the DCEP (Digital Currency Electronic Payment, DC/EP):
This centralized digital financial system works on blockchain and cryptographic principles and aims to increase the circulation of the RMB, in the hope it can become a reserve currency like the U.S. Dollar.
Created and sanctioned by the Chinese Government, it is the only legal digital currency in China.
The system offers Chinese regulators better monitoring abilities and will be an efficient tool against anonymous counterfeiting, money laundering and illegal financing. At the same time it reduces costs involved in maintaining and recycling bank notes and coins.
As mentioned above, China aims to bypass Swift, which it regards to be a U.S. entity, and will be able to collect real-time data related to money creation, bookkeeping, essential information for the implementation of monetary policies.
The pilot institutions for DCEP, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, will serve as a production test for China's new currency system, after which the DCEP will be distributed to large fintech companies such as Tencent and Alibaba to be used in WeChat Pay and AliPay. Transfers will not go through bank accounts, but through electronic wallets.
By mandating that all merchants who accept digital payments must accept DCEP, the DECP will become the most accepted digital currency in the world.
5. Sings of hope.
If the United States adopts blockchain and issues a CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) backed by Bitcoin, they will have a reasonable chance to offer the western democracies a new type of dollar standard that can be an anchor versus the coming RMB. If not, I fear the worst is yet to come for the U.S. Dollar and its economy. Many smart American economists and Wall Street goeroe's have finally figured out the remarkable strength of Bitcoin, the world's first and most favorite digital form of gold. Some of the smartest investment capitalists like Ray Dalio and Warren Buffet have allocated more money into gold, a clear sign of trouble. Bitcoin might be a step too far for Warren Buffet, but rest assure that Wall Street investment management companies have figured it out by now, have you? You can expect more institutions to allocate a % of their portfolio's wealth into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as a hedge against the systemic risk in our global financial system, which will inevitable start feeling the effects of the trillions that have been printed. "Inflation makes you pay 50 dollars for the 20 dollar haircut you used to get for 5 dollars when you had hair!"
Fedora uses Security-Enhanced Linux by default, which implements a variety of security policies, including mandatory access controls, which Fedora adopted early on. Fedora provides a hardening wrapper, and does hardening for all of its packages by using compiler features such as position-independent executable (PIE). Wikipedia
Pop!_OS provides full out-of-the-box support for both AMD and Nvidia GPUs. It is regarded as an easy distribution to set-up for gaming, mainly due to its built-in GPU support. Pop!_OS provides default disk encryption, streamlined window and workspace management, keyboard shortcuts for navigation as well as built in power management profiles. The latest releases also have packages that allow for easy setup for TensorFlow and CUDA. Wikipedia
Debian is one of the oldest operating systems based on the Linux kernel. The project is coordinated over the Internet by a team of volunteers guided by the Debian Project Leader and three foundational documents: the Debian Social Contract, the Debian Constitution, and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. New distributions are updated continually, and the next candidate is released after a time-based freeze. Wikipedia
Any user who wishes to have the newest packages that include, but are not limited to, the Linux Kernel, SAMBA, git, desktops, office applications and many other packages, will want Tumbleweed. openSUSE
Qubes OS is a security-focused desktop operating system that aims to provide security through isolation. Virtualization is performed by Xen, and user environments can be based on Fedora, Debian, Whonix, and Microsoft Windows, among other operating systems. Wikipedia
Tails, or The Amnesic Incognito Live System, is a security-focused Debian-based Linux distribution aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity. All its incoming and outgoing connections are forced to go through Tor, and any non-anonymous connections are blocked. Wikipedia).*
Whonix is a Debian GNU/Linux–based security-focused Linux distribution. It aims to provide privacy, security and anonymity on the internet. The operating system consists of two virtual machines, a "Workstation" and a Tor "Gateway", running Debian GNU/Linux. All communications are forced through the Tor network to accomplish this. Wikipedia
Tor is free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication. The name derived from the acronym for the original software project name "The Onion Router". Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult to trace Internet activity to the user. Wikipedia
Without signing in to a Google Account, Chromium does pretty well in terms of security and privacy. However, Chromium still has some dependency on Google web services and binaries. In addition, Google designed Chromium to be easy and intuitive for users, which means they compromise on transparency and control of internal operations. ungoogled-chromium addresses these issues in the following ways:
Remove all remaining background requests to any web services while building and running the browser
Remove all code specific to Google web services
Remove all uses of pre-made binaries from the source code, and replace them with user-provided alternatives when possible. Disable features that inhibit control and transparency, and add or modify features that promote them (these changes will almost always require manual activation or enabling). GitHub Recommended addons: uBlock Origin | HTTPS Everywhere | Privacy Badger | Decentraleyes | NoScript
Tor protects your privacy on the internet by hiding the connection between your Internet address and the services you use. We believe Tor is reasonably secure, but please ensure you read the instructions and configure it properly. GitHub
There are many ears listening on the Internet, which is why all our services require mandatory SSL/TLS-encrypted data transmission. For additional security, we also use enhanced (green) security certificates ("EV") by the independent SwissSign trust service provider from Switzerland (Check the padlock symbol in your web browser's URL field). But this is just the beginning – there is so much more that we do. Mailbox
Disroot is a decentralized cloud-based service that allows you to store your files and communicate with one another. Established by a privacy-focused organization of volunteers, if we look at Disroot as an email provider specifically, it stands out thanks to its emphasis on security with a completly free open-source approach. ProPrivacy
ProtonMail is an end-to-end encrypted email service founded in 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland by scientists who met at the CERN research facility. ProtonMail uses client-side encryption to protect email content and user data before they are sent to ProtonMail servers, unlike other common email providers such as Gmail and Outlook.com. The service can be accessed through a webmail client, the Tor network, or dedicated iOS and Android apps. Wikipedia
searx is a free metasearch engine, available under the GNU Affero General Public License version 3, with the aim of protecting the privacy of its users. To this end, searx does not share users' IP addresses or search history with the search engines from which it gathers results. Tracking cookies served by the search engines are blocked, preventing user-profiling-based results modification. By default, searx queries are submitted via HTTP POST, to prevent users' query keywords from appearing in webserver logs. Wikipedia - Find public instances of searx here searx.space
Startpage is a web search engine that highlights privacy as its distinguishing feature. Previously, it was known as the metasearch engine Ixquick, At that time, Startpage was a variant service. Both sites were merged in 2016. Wikipedia
YaCy is a free distributed search engine, built on principles of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Its core is a computer program written in Java distributed on several hundred computers, as of September 2006, so-called YaCy-peers. Each YaCy-peer independently crawls through the Internet, analyzes and indexes found web pages, and stores indexing results in a common database (so called index) which is shared with other YaCy-peers using principles of P2P networks. It is a free search engine that everyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet and to help search the public internet clearly. Wikipedia
Mullvad is an open-source commercial virtual private network (VPN) service based in Sweden. Launched in March 2009, Mullvad operates using the WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols. Mullvad accepts Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash for subscriptions in addition to conventional payment methods. No email address or other identifying information is requested during Mullvad's registration process. Rather, a unique 16-digit account number is anonymously generated for each new user. This account number is henceforth used to log in to the Mullvad service. The TechRadar review notes that "The end result of all this is you don't have to worry about how Mullvad handles court requests to access your usage data, because, well, there isn't any." Wikipedia
ProtonVPN utilizes OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) and the IKEv2 protocol, with AES-256 encryption. The company has a strict no-logging policy for user connection data, and also prevents DNS and Web-RTC leaks from exposing users' true IP addresses. ProtonVPN also includes Tor access support and a kill switch to shut off Internet access in the event of a lost VPN connection. In January 2020, ProtonVPN became the first VPN provider to release its source code on all platforms and conduct an independent security audit. ProtonVPN is the only VPN to do so, even though experts say this is a crucial factor in deciding whether to trust a VPN service. Wikipedia
For information about alternatives to software and services.
If you are looking for alternatives to proprietary services like Discord and Facebook, or an open-source alternative to Photoshop, check out our list about Awesome-Alternatives
Mirrors are kept up to date, this post may lag behind as we add stuff in.
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
An Analysis of Anonymity in the Bitcoin System Fergal Reid Clique Research Cluster University College Dublin, Ireland [email protected] Martin Harrigan Clique Research Cluster University College Dublin, Ireland [email protected] Abstract—Anonymity in Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic currency system, is a complicated issue. Within the system, users are identiﬁed by public-keys ... Anonymity in Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic currency system, is a complicated issue. Within the system, users are identified by public-keys only. An attacker wishing to de-anonymize its users will attempt to construct the one-to-many mapping between users and public-keys and associate information external to the system with the users. Bitcoin tries to prevent this attack by storing the ... Abstract: Anonymity in Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic currency system, is a complicated issue. Within the system, users are identified by public-keys only. An attacker wishing to de-anonymize its users will attempt to construct the one to-many mapping between users and public-keys and associate information external to the system with the users. Bitcoin anonymity a peer-to-peer electronic currency system is a complicated issue. Within the system, users are identified by public-keys only. An attacker wishing to de-anonymise its users will attempt to construct the one-to-many mapping between users and public-keys and associate information external to the system with the users. Anonymity in Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic currency system, is a complicated issue. Within the system, users are identified only by public-keys. An attacker wishing to de-anonymize users will attempt to construct the one-to-many mapping between users and public-keys, and associate information external to the system with the users. Bitcoin tries to prevent this attack by storing the ...
CryptoFinance.fr Strong anonymity in cryptocurrencies Georg Fuchsbauer (INRIA, ENS)
Monopoly without a Monopolist: An Economic Analysis of the Bitcoin Payment System - Jacob Leshno Stanford Blockchain Conference (SBC) '19, January 30th - February 1st 2019, Stanford University ... Hyperwave Channel by Lucid Investment Strategies Co-hosted by D. Tyler Jenks and Leah Wald Lucid Investment Strategies, LLC https://lucidinvestmentstrategies... After checking out Bitcoin System and its methods, our team is very excited to finally introduce what could possibly be the NEXT BEST Global Trading App for everyone. We’ll explain in detail why ... On January 24-25, 2019 the Center of Mathematical Sciences hosted a conference on distributed-ledger (blockchain) technology. The conference was intended to cover a broad range of topics, from ... MORE INFO ON: https://EthereumOfficial.org A cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency that has a decentralized payment system (there is no internal or ex...