UPDATED 21:57 EST / MARCH 20 2018

EMERGING TECH

Cryptocurrency users at risk after child pornography found on bitcoin blockchain

Bitcoin could be in a deep trouble from an expected direction after researchers discovered child pornography on the bitcoin blockchain, a copy of which many bitcoin users and related service providers download when trading the cryptocurrency.

The researchers from the RWTH Aachen University in Germany found that about 1,600 files were currently stored in bitcoin’s blockchain. One is believed to be an image of child abuse and two contain 274 links to child abuse content, 142 of which link to shady dark web services, The Guardian reported.

In most countries, possession of child pornography is illegal, even if it is unintentionally downloaded. “Our analysis shows that certain content, e.g., illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal,” the researchers said. “Although court rulings do not yet exist, legislative texts from countries such as Germany, the UK, or the USA suggest that illegal content such as [child abuse imagery] can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users.”

They added that “since all blockchain data is downloaded and persistently stored by users, they are liable for any objectionable content added to the blockchain by others. Consequently, it would be illegal to participate in blockchain-based systems as soon as it contains illegal content.”

If storing and linking to child porn isn’t enough, the researchers also discovered 609 records of chat logs, emails and forum posts discussing bitcoin and money laundering.

Although it’s unlikely bitcoin users are about to be raided for possession of child pornography, the mere fact that the bitcoin blockchain has such material on it raises deep concerns.

“We anticipate a high potential for illegal blockchain content to jeopardize blockchain-based systems such as bitcoin in the future,” the researchers concluded. “We believe that future blockchain designs must proactively cope with objectionable content. Peers can, e.g., filter incoming transactions or revert content holding transactions… but this must be scalable and transparent.”

Photo: Pixabay

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