TITANIUM: Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets


Wiesbaden (02 October 2018)

"In 2017 we participated in a tightly coordinated operation to bring down one of the biggest darknet markets at this time -- the so-called Hansa Market. This market was a mass market for drug products from thousands of dealers who shipped worldwide to different customers. Hence, the takedown of Hansa Market was an international matter of interest. The 10-month investigation led to the seizure of the market's servers and finally brought to book two administrators who operated from Germany.

After the fall of Hansa, security personnel in the Netherlands began an initiative that involved knocking on the doors of the individuals who had links with the market. In particular, the analyzation of cryptocurrency-transactions lead to a successful identification of the people involved: By crawling through thousands of hidden web services including social media platforms, databases and other registers, the cybercrime investigators would identify addresses which they would then use to link the transactions. Due to the fact that crypto exchanges are committed by law to provide information about their users, the investigators were finally able to identify the real persons behind Bitcoin-addresses. However, much of this work was done manually and therefore required a lot of time. Everybody realized how important automated solutions are.

The fallout of this law enforcement coup has been one of the most successful blows against the darkweb in its short history: confiscated Bitcoins that are worth millions of dollars, more than a dozen arrests and a vast database of Hansa user information that should haunt anyone who bought or sold on the site.

Nevertheless, darkweb and crypto-related criminal activities will continue to grow, and the perpetrators will adapt to new surroundings and police tactics. Additionally, Bitcoin has been and still is the primary mode of payment in the darknet markets, but with time, the wave is slowly changing because of the integration of new cryptocurrencies that are considered to be cheaper in the sense that the transaction costs are lower, more convenient and, lastly, offer more anonymity.

For this reason, law enforcement has to stay sensitive to the technical zeitgeist and seek to venture into developing new tools that can also analyze the blockchain of other digital tokens commonly used by cybercriminals. TITANIUM is a valuable and necessary step in this regard and we strongly support the project with all our experience and expertise in order to enable the developers to align the intended tools as close to reality as possible, making them as powerful as possible."

- Cybercrime investigator of the Federal Criminal Police Office Germany (Bundeskriminalamt) -