Not as anonymous as you think
Many people assume that Bitcoin transactions are completely anonymous. However, this isn’t the case, even though the users always have an opportunity to stay pseudo anonymous. Projects are underway that will allow to unmask Bitcoin users when necessary.
Such technologies are already being used by e-commerce websites. We are talking about ad trackers that gather information about user activity, in form of cookies or any other kind of data. Such information can help identify the users behind a particular Bitcoin transaction.
At first glance, using ad trackers to unmask Bitcoin users may sound like an odd idea. After all, Bitcoin is a transparent cryptocurrency, despite being used for nefarious purposes. Cyber criminals tend to favor Bitcoin when it comes to completing their illegal operations. Ironically, hacker attacks have actually helped Bitcoin in the past, providing extra publicity and media coverage for the cryptocurrency. There’s several altcoins that are better suited for illegal activities, however, the criminals still tend to stick to Bitcoin.
Taking off the mask
Recent studies prove that there’s a way to successfully unmask Bitcoin users, which certainly won’t be appreciated by the individuals using cryptocurrency for their criminal activities. Developers won’t even need to come up with a qualitatively new approach – ad trackers on e-commerce websites are already gathering all the data. Until now, nobody thought of using this information to help identify Bitcoin users. However, things might change in the nearest future.
A research has been published last week that explains how ad-trackers can be used to expose the users trying to hide their identity behind Bitcoin transactions. Any website that we use for online shopping is able to track user’s activity, browser information, IP address, as well as gather cookies.
The companies store cookies on users’ computers and don’t hesitate to share the information with advertising agencies. Based on the research, thoroughly analyzing the data might become the key to creating profiles of Bitcoin users.
Is the Big Brother watching us?
Most of us tend to underestimate the amount of information gathered by ad-trackers. It doesn’t only apply to the websites that require registration. If you’re visiting a site for the first time, your data will be collected the same way. Even the simplest cookie file contains information about your device, purchases, carts, items browsed, your e-mail and even shipping address. Regardless if you’re remaining pseudo anonymous, this information is enough to possibly link you to a Bitcoin transaction.
E-commerce websites and advertising companies aren’t the only recipients of user information. Hackers and law enforcement agencies are also able to gather data from multiple ad-trackers or advertising agencies using same methods. This could lead to worldwide deanonymization of Bitcoin users. On upside, it would create an opportunity to solve, or even prevent cyber crimes by linking suspicious virtual activity to real people.
Using ad-trackers could become a very effective way to unmask Bitcoin users. Every Bitcoin-friendly website is able to tie a Bitcoin address to a certain user. Out of 130 websites in test, almost half of them leaked information. E-commerce websites allow third-parties scripts to gain access to some form of payment information, making these websites primary targets for blockchain analysts.