Day: 14 December 2020
Platform by FIT is searching for the owners of cryptocurrency addresses. It is able to connect them to illegal activity
The platform, which helps identify people buying illegal services on the Internet, has been created by Vladislav Bambuch from FIT BUT. He first encountered the topic of processing of publicly available data and linking them to cryptocurrency addresses in one of his university courses. Subsequently, he expanded upon the topic in his diploma thesis. The result of his work is a functional platform linking past projects undertaken at FIT BUT and serving as a basis for the connection of other web-based tools in the future.
Vladislav Bambuch has long been interested in the topic of increasing security on the Internet. That is one of the reasons why he decided to study, and, at the same time, join a project undertaken as a part of the Data Communications, Computer Networks and Protocols course, taught at FIT BUT by Vladimír Veselý. "Within the project, my task was to gather data from one website. Specifically, I was collecting cryptocurrency addresses. When the project ended and I was thinking about the topic of my diploma thesis, I got the idea to approach Vladimír Veselý. We agreed that I will work on a platform that will connect various student and diploma projects gathering data from websites," explains Bambuch.
According to him, publicly available data are gathered so it would be possible to use them to identify people in the future. "If there will be enough data, it will possible to tell that a specific person bought illegal services on the Internet," he specifies. It concerns gathering of information on specific cryptocurrency addresses. "Cryptocurrency addresses are pseudonymous. That means full anonymity during payments cannot be guaranteed. Our goal is to find out who an address belongs to. That person may make a mistake and accidentally reveal that the address belongs to them. For example, they may post in some Internet forum. If we have information from the dark web that this particular account was used for illegal activities and we have publicly available information on who logged into that account, we will then connect all data to find an intersection," describes Bambuch.
A wide range of student works and projects on the same topic had already been created at FIT BUT. However, most of the time, they differed in their approach and often also in the programming language used. Therefore, Vladislav Bambuch's goal was to create a platform that will integrate individual projects and create a common basis for further work. He also added his own modules. "Specifically, it concerns processing of two different websites and data that can be used to detect persons," he adds. He processed for example the bitcointalk.org forum which is frequented by many people interested in cryptocurrencies. "It is a very interesting source of information. On top of that, we can guess who is the owner of the cryptocurrency addresses we find there based on the context," notes Bambuch. Users can use the platform for example to find matching addresses from a dark web blackmail e-mail sample and from some of the discussion forums or social networks.
Apart from this, Vladislav Bambuch also added other things to his platform; for example, a project which can create complete copies of websites and archive them. "It prevents us from losing data and evidence, for example when someone deletes his post," he explains.
Although its aim within the diploma thesis was primarily to demonstrate certain abilities, Vladislav Bambuch continues the development of the platform and, under the auspices of a commercial company, shaped it into a product which can be used for example by prosecuting bodies. "Organisations interested in assessment of the given cryptocurrency address can also make use of the information. We are able to tell, whether it belongs to an ordinary person who uses bitcoin to pay for bread or a hired assassin," adds Bambuch.
However, he himself was not able to identify specific people during the development of the platform. "It was not my goal. A large amount of data is required in order to identify someone. That is why I focused more on demonstrating certain knowledge and creation of a tool than on searching for murderers or drug dealers," clarifies Vladislav Bambuch.
The only issue he had to tackle during the development of the platform was rate limiting. "There is a limit on requests sent to the given server. You cannot view a website without any limitations. If you send too many requests too fast, the server will block you. I was aware of this and I had to take this into account while creating platform's architecture. If I waited and sent requests gradually, the process would take about 103 days. But I was sending requests from seven computers simultaneously, so I managed to convince the server it wasn't just me. Thanks to that, I managed to reduce the length of the process to around nineteen days. That, of course, is still a lot, but I still managed to save plenty of time," noted Bambuch.
His work was recognised during this year's Excel@FIT both by a panel of experts and the expert community by awarding him the Jiří Kunovský Award. You can watch the video presentation HERE.
Author: Kozubová Hana, Mgr.
Last modified: 2021-02-02T16:20:09