Blockchain and… crime prevention? | University


The most widely used cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has recently been used to identify human traffickers.FLICKR IMAGE

Although only a little over a decade old, blockchain has practically spawned a technological revolution – a revolution that could reshape the processes of finance, medical administration, supply chains, education, well … pretty much most things you can think of. As messy as it sounds, the basic concept of blockchain is actually quite simple: it is basically a collection of records (“ block ”) linked together (“ chain ”), with its decentralized, non-modifiable and cryptographically protected information. The blockchain is the mother of the 6000+ cryptocurrencies that exist today and of course that includes the famous (or rather, some say infamous) Bitcoin.

It is of great concern that this very design makes blockchain the perfect creation for criminals. This is mainly due to the fact that the use of cryptocurrencies has made it easier to secure underground transactions without having to go through a centralized bank. Such anonymity has introduced challenges for law enforcement to track perpetrators of crimes such as theft, scams, money laundering and terrorism, as well as sex and labor trafficking. From January to May 2020, financial losses from cryptocurrency-related thefts appear to have peaked and reached a whopping $ 1.4 billion.

But things are not so hopeless, as data analysts are tasked with studying how the blockchain itself could indeed be the same tool used to tackle the crimes it lends a platform to. In 2017, computer scientist Rebecca Portnoff and her colleagues explained how cryptocurrency can help us follow the breadcrumb trail of sex traffickers. The team developed a machine learning classifier that takes advantage of stylometry – the study of writing style through quantitative processing – to first distinguish between independent sex providers and potential sex traffickers. about online sex ads. From there, computer bonding techniques use leaks in the cryptocurrency “ mempool ” (a space that contains pending cryptocurrency transactions) to link to these potential traffickers. This promising technology may however see certain limits beyond its control, such as the limitations inherent in stylometry (or rather, general forensic linguistics).

More recently, through a process called “ congestion, ” companies that are used to fight crypto-crime now have the ability to identify accounts under the same Bitcoin wallet and entity (after all, Bitcoin as crypto -money is a public record of transactions and not entirely unobtainable). Companies such as Bitfury’s Crystal engage in the detection of potential illicit activity, recently assisted the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation to reach this goal. On a related note, the Bitcoin Intelligence Group (BIG) has partnered with the Anti-Trafficking in Human Beings Intelligence Initiative (ATII) to track down human traffickers, primarily by updating their data. cryptographic transactions as well as addresses suspected of being relevant to human trafficking. . CipherTrace, claimed to be the world’s first blockchain forensics team and leader in blockchain security, has embarked on similar missions with ATII.

Finally, there is the question of knowing what happens with the involvement of biometrics, that is to say biological measures allowing individuals to be identified (fingerprints, facial recognition, etc., to name a few). ‘a couple). David Orme, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at IDEX Biometrics, invites reflection on whether biometrics can hinder crypto-crime. The claim stems from concerns about the fragility and potential insecurity of both “ active wallets ” (hard devices that can connect to the Internet, such as tablets and laptops) and “ cold wallets ” (devices outside line such as USB drives that store cryptographic data). Although the issue of ‘when biometrics meets blockchain’ has been raised in areas such as food logistics and aviation quality, discussions on biometrics in the specific area of ​​cryptocurrency remain rare and merit further examination.

With criminals diligently refining their tools and supporting their pernicious activities with cryptocurrency, there is a natural need for researchers to stand up and take action. At this point, we are tasked with timely training of professionals at the crossroads of data science, criminology and cryptocurrency. In the face of globally disruptive technology like blockchain, there is an urgent need to block intentions to apply it as a platform for malicious companies – although this is an incredible challenge.

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