“Tracers In The Darkish” by Andy Greenberg (Doubleday)
The yr was 2011. Cryptocurrency was a little-understood novelty, and Sen. Chuck Schumer known as a information convention to vent outrage over a one-stop on-line store for unlawful medication whose know-how made sellers “nearly untraceable.”
The New York lawmaker’s description of Silk Street helped seed a persisting fable that know-how reporter Andy Greenberg exhaustively dispels in “Tracers within the Darkish,” that transactions of Bitcoin and different cryptocurrencies cannot be tracked.
Greenberg sketches the evolution of an entirely new self-discipline within the surprisingly vigorous real-life police procedural, following legislation officers and programmers who invent and deploy cryptocurrency-tracking instruments to catch a brand new breed of prison. They take down Silk Street and different “darkish net” markets and retailers, finger crypto cash launderers and snare the sysadmin and customers of Welcome to Video, a significant South-Korea-based distributor of kid sexual abuse materials.
Better of the motion are two takedown dramas. A younger Quebecois behind the AlphaBay darkish net market, Alexandre Cazes, lives massive in Thailand, rocketing round in a Lamborghini, working up $12,000 restaurant payments and boasting of adulterous sexploits on-line. The opposite takedown is of a DEA agent and a Secret Service agent who illegally enriched themselves off Silk Street whereas investigating it – every wholly on their very own.
However Greenberg is extra within the uber-geeks blazing this new digital legislation enforcement path as they observe cryptocurrency on the so-called blockchain, the place each transaction is recorded. The individuals making the transactions is probably not instantly identifiable and sometimes use so-called “mixers” to attempt to obscure them. However painstaking digital sleuthing – and carelessness – foils many cybercrooks.
Within the highlight are Armenian-born accountant-turned-IRS agent named Tigran Gambaryan and blue-eyed Danish programmer Michael Groniger, co-founder of Chainalysis, a pioneer in business crypto-tracing, which counts legislation enforcement and intelligence companies amongst its principal prospects. Readers additionally meet tutorial crypto-tracking pioneer Sarah Meiklejohn, a meticulous prosecutor’s daughter.
To his credit score, Greenberg deftly teases out technical element with out slowing the narrative. A author for Wired, he is finished this in different titles charting the beginnings of main tech phenomena. “This Machine Kills Secrets and techniques” explores WikiLeaks and different actors in politically motivated secrets-spilling. “Sandworm,” named for a infamous Russian navy hacking workforce, chronicles the rise of cyberattacks.
“Tracers” following its principal characters by way of the Silk Street and AlphaBay takedowns, the 2014 theft of the Bitcoin alternate Mt. Gox ($530 million on the time) and the disturbing Welcome to Video bust. The brokers who labored that case can by no means unsee the horrible pictures they gathered as proof, linking purchases to patrons’ cryptocurrency wallets.
Properly instructed is how Dutch cyber police surreptitiously take over and run the Hansa darkish net market simply as patrons of the shuttered AlphaBay enroll in droves. The creator additionally tackles newer cryptocurrencies together with Monero and ZCash that declare untraceability.
One story Greenberg is unable to inform properly is of the most important prison cyber coin alternate up to now, BTC-e. That is hardly his fault.
Earlier than it was taken down in 2017, BTC-e was the No. 1 laundering facility for proceeds from extortive ransomware gangs, who just like the alternate function principally in post-Soviet nations. Vital particulars of its relationship with the Kremlin stay unreported. It is alleged administrator, Alexander Vinnik, was arrested in Greece and extradited to the USA. The uncommon Russian cybercrook to face Western justice, he’s alleged to have laundered greater than $4 billion and awaits trial in California.
For all their success monitoring Bitcoin and different cybercurrencies, the heroes of Greenberg’s guide are sometimes annoyed by a scarcity of Russian authorized cooperation particularly. Not one of the highly effective instruments smithed by programmers at Chainalysis and its rivals – Elliptic and TRM Labs, amongst them – can put away a thief that justice can not attain.