Under the deal, the IWF, a group that focuses on eliminating child pornography online, has provided a database to Elliptic of bitcoin addresses associated with those dealing with the highly illegal content.
In return, Elliptic will integrate the data set into its transaction monitoring and investigation products, then alert financial institutions and law enforcement clients should the bitcoin be used again.
Elliptic software uses artificial intelligence to explore the bitcoin blockchain network for patterns of suspicious transactions and activity, and allows users to detect unusual transactions and track their origin.
The company works with bitcoin exchanges and payment processes, and provides key evidence to law enforcement agencies in both Europe and the United States for investigations that involve bitcoin transactions.
IWF claims to have identified more than 68, 000 URLs containing child sexual abuse images, although it’s not clear how they have identified individual bitcoin addresses.
“Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing amount of Bitcoin activity connected to purchasing child sexual abuse material online, ” IWF Chief Executive Officer Susie Hargreaves said in a statement. “Our new partnership with Elliptic is imperative to helping us tackle this criminal use of Bitcoin.”
“We have a profound respect for the critical and difficult work that IWF undertakes, ” Elliptic Chief Executive Officer and Founder Dr. James Smith added. “We are proud to take a leadership role in combating Bitcoin’s use to facilitate these terrible crimes. In a world’s first, Elliptic’s clients can now automatically monitor all transactions for any connection to proceeds of child sex abuse.”
While bitcoin has many legal uses, it’s no secret that it is also used for a variety of nefarious activities from buying drugs to ransomware, and as in this case the purchase of child pornography.
Bitcoin has always been promoted as an anonymous way to make payments, but that’s not always the case, particularly given transactions are publicly recorded on the blockchain and can, therefore, be traced.
As exposed in a study in 2014 the identity of around 60 percent of bitcoin users can be easily unmasked, and since that time ways to do so have improved; those doing the wrong thing are implementing new methods to mask their identities, but it’s a game of cat and mouse between them and authorities.