It seems obvious that doing crimes and writing the receipts to an immutable public ledger is risky, but many criminals have been convinced that there is no risk because cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are anonymous. Although there are cryptocurrencies with anonymous transactions, such as Monero and zCash, they are much more difficult to use and much less liquid than pseudonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As many criminals have discovered, without an unrealistically intense focus on operational security (opsec), the identity behind the pseudonym can be revealed. An entire industry has evolved to do these revelations, tracing the flow of coins through their blockchains.
Below the fold I discuss the techniques and results of blockchain tracing, based on four main sources:
- Andy Greenberg's new book entitled Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency.
- Chainalysis' report 2024 Crypto Crime Trends: Illicit Activity Down as Scamming and Stolen Funds Fall, But Ransomware and Darknet Markets See Growth and his ‘Stablecoins’ Enabled $40 Billion in Crypto Crime Since 2022.
- The UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report Casinos, Money Laundering, Underground Banking, and Transnational Organized Crime in East and Southeast Asia: A Hidden, Accelerating Threat.
- Recent posts on ChainArgos blog.