Published: Tue, March 20, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Child abuse images hidden in Bitcoin blockchain

Child abuse images hidden in Bitcoin blockchain

The network that records Bitcoin payments has been found to store files and links to child abuse images which are impossible to remove, researchers have discovered.

In a paper published by two groups from Aachen and Frankfurt University, authors claim sexual images and links to child pornography attached to Bitcoin transactions has the potential to criminalize swathes of the nascent Blockchain industry. While five files only show, describe, or link to mildly pornographic content, we consider the remaining three instances objectionable for nearly all jurisdictions: "Two of them are backups of link lists to child pornography, containing 274 links to websites, 142 of which refer to Tor hidden services", the paper states. The researchers also uncovered six wedding-related images, 609 transactions containing public chat logs, emails and forum posts discussing Bitcoin and money laundering, in addition to backups of WikiLeaks data.

"Our analysis shows that certain content, eg, illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal", the researchers wrote. This especially endangers the multi-billion dollar markets powering cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

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More than 90% of the arbitrary data stored in the blockchain is of short messages and pictures, researchers found, and other possible objectionable content includes malware and viruses.

Blockchain isn't necessary for users wishing to trade Bitcoin, some processes, like mining, do require users to download either the full blockchain or parts of it - illegal material and all. Naturally that causes a lot of problems, with the researchers noting that even a single instance of illegal material could automatically make it illegal to use blockchain-based systems.

This is not the first time warnings over the ability to store non-financial data within the blockchain have been issued. It too warned that blockchain technology could be exploited to host and share child sexual abuse content.

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