CounterCraft will be one of the fifteen international partners involved in a project called TITANIUM (Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets), created to stop criminals and attackers from using blockchain technology to hide from the police, while at the same time respecting the privacy and rights of legitimate users.

Blockchain technology is a distributed ledger under decentralised control, which allows it to evade traditional investigative techniques. The best-known application of blockchain technology is Bitcoin, a virtual currency which has many legitimate uses but is also employed for criminal purposes in the so-called dark web. One infamous example of unlawful Bitcoin use was the recent WannaCry attack, where adversaries that froze computers in 150 countries demanded a ransom paid in this cryptocurrency.

“Using mathematics police can identify fraudulent Bitcoin transactions, but where do they go from there? How do they catch the anonymous criminals behind those transactions? That’s where CounterCraft comes in. We are really excited to be investigating how to use our counterintelligence technology to unmask these criminals and help law enforcement agencies do their jobs” says Dan Brett, founder of CounterCraft.

The three-year, €5 million project funded by the European Union, is aimed at developing technical solutions for investigating and mitigating crime and terrorism involving virtual currencies and underground market transactions.

Gathering intelligence on cybercriminal activities while ensuring the right to privacy

Among the participants in the project are four law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and INTERPOL. The researchers aim to develop and implement tools to reveal common characteristics of criminal transactions, detect anomalies in their usage, and identify money-laundering techniques. They will also conduct training activities to develop skills and knowledge among EU law enforcement agencies.

Project co-ordinator Ross King, a senior scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, emphasised that these tools that will be developed within the TITANIUM project will ensure individual privacy and other fundamental rights. “The consortium will analyse legal and ethical requirements and define guidelines for storing and processing data, information, and knowledge involved in criminal investigations without compromising citizen privacy”, he declared.