Andy Greenberg Is Publishing a New Book on BTC's Traceability

Andy Greenberg Is Publishing a New Book on BTC's Traceability

January 27, 2023

Andy Greenberg – a technology journalist – has a new book coming out called “Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency.”

Andy Greenberg Has a New BTC Book Coming Out

The book details the early 2021 incident in which the Colonial Pipeline was hacked by cyberthieves who demanded bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in exchange for its release. The Department of Justice (DOJ) was able to recover half of the payment that was sent and take the funds back, thus resulting in the thieves receiving a lot less money than they had anticipated.

The book is a testament to the traceability of crypto, which is often labeled as anonymous and immune to prying eyes. Greenberg claims this is not true and discusses the matter in detail in the book.

He explained that the way the traceability happens is when agencies collapse bitcoin addresses into single identities. He says there are certain patterns that occur on the blockchain, even when transactors utilize multiple addresses to send or receive crypto funds, and that organizations such as the DOJ are now able to read those patterns with greater ease and discover who the money is going to and who it’s coming from. They can then intercede if necessary.

In the book, Greenberg writes:

In bitcoin, for good and for ill, everyone was witness to every payment… [which] offered an enormous collection of data to analyze. Who could say what sorts of patterns might give away users who thought they were cleverer than those watching them?

One of the big “characters” in the book is a woman named Sarah Meiklejohn, who studied at the University of California at San Diego in 2011. Working to get her PhD, Sarah heard about bitcoin while focusing on privacy research, and she became intrigued by the technology behind it.

Finding the Patterns

In taking a broader look at the blockchain, she was able to decipher many of the patterns that the book discusses and that agencies like the Department of Justice are now able to utilize when studying criminal activity. Greenberg writes:

She scanned her blockchain database for every multi-input transaction, linking all those double, triple, or even hundredfold inputs to single identities. The result immediately reduced the number of potential bitcoin users from twelve million to date to around five million, slicing away more than half of the problem… Many bitcoin wallets only allowed spenders to pay the entire [number] of coins sitting at a certain address. Each address was like a piggy bank that [must] be smashed open to spend the coin inside. Spend less than the whole amount in that piggy bank and the leftovers [must] be stored in a newly created piggy bank.

Crypto crime has become a much larger subject following the fall of FTX.

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