The darknet has been quiet of late, which is the way it’s meant to be. No news means no mega busts, honeypots, or mass market shutdowns. Even when it’s out of the spotlight though, the deep web is quietly making news, whether trialling the latest privacy coins or the newest coin mixers that promise to restore a little of the privacy that’s being stripped away from bitcoin users on a daily basis.
The Battle for Privacy Heats Up
Privacy is all relative, but of late there’s been relatively little privacy to be enjoyed by bitcoin users. Blockchain monitoring software is becoming more sophisticated and more common, with U.S. law enforcement agencies using it to profile and hunt down deep web users. Chip Mixer is a relatively new bitcoin tumbler that’s designed to restore some of that privacy. Available on both the clearnet and darknet, the service uses a variety of techniques to obfuscate blockchain movements.
Unlike other mixers, Chip Mixer adds in its own chips which are then shuffled around in a manner akin to gambling at an online casino, before the initial deposit is withdrawn into a new address. Services such as Chip Mixer are useful not only to darknet vendors and customers, but to bitcoin users in general seeking to regain some privacy. In a week in which a prominent bitcoiner got the community talkingsimply by transferring their 40k BTC to a new address, it’s evident that there are instances where transaction obfuscation is desirable.
The Age of Blockchain Monitoring Has Arrived
“Criminals think that they are safe online because they’re anonymous, but they are in for a rude awakening,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday, launching a crackdown on Fentanyl distribution. “We have already infiltrated their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice.”
The sort of tools used by three-letter agencies such as ICE are presented as a means of combatting the trafficking of harmful narcotics, but this is invariably the thin end of the wedge. Companies such as Bitfury gleefully boast of creating tools that are “for use by law enforcement organizations and financial institutions.” Their latest, Crystal, “tracks the relationships of an entity with identified bad actors (such as dark market traders)”. These sorts of companies would have no qualms about their software being used to profile users based on nothing more than their country of origin, libertarian beliefs, or cypherpunk ideology.
Dream Marketplace Adds Monero
There is an alternative means of regaining anonymity when transacting online which doesn’t call for passing through time-consuming tumblers: use a privacy coin. Dream, one of the longest standing DNMs, has always been a bitcoin-only marketplace, with bitcoin cash finally added a month ago. Now, much to the relief of r/Darknetmarkets, monero has made its way to Dream. To date, law enforcement – together with other busybodies intent on surveilling deep web users – have failed to deanonymize monero. Given the level of rhetoric surrounding new blockchain forensic tools, 2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year for privacy advocates and those who would seek to deny them that right.