Bitcoin has long been known to protect the identity of the people who use it thanks to its anonymous transactions. However, in the case of 12 Russian defendants accused of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, investigators can use Bitcoin as a tracking device and navigate the blockchain through a series of transactions in an attempt to prove their guilt.
Bitcoin transactions can be traced
A Vice's new report has broken the myth that Bitcoin transactions are 100% anonymous, with Tim Cotten, a blockchain developer, showing how forensic analysts can use information on the public blockchain to track Bitcoin purchases.
"It is not a good idea to commit crimes with Bitcoin because when you have only one weak connection in your security operation, all your chronology is now on display, as we have seen on a case-by-case basis, indictment after prosecution, where they are interrupting the drug trade, trading that operates illegally is not just traceable – it is commonplace to trace these things, "said Cotton.
In video, Cotten shows the process by which a subpoena would allow the forces of order to determine exactly the person who processed a specific Bitcoin transaction and the exact day it was made, identifying them on the basis to their legal residence, date of birth and name.
According to the developer blockchain, "Someone with enough time and dedication will be able to trace the path."
Bitcoin sellers like Coinbase typically require one to send their personal information, and with the power of an order, government authorities could get all the information they want, linking Bitcoin transactions to real people rather than random series of letters and numbers.