March 20, 2018
By Samuel Gibbs
Researchers discover illegal content within the distributed ledger, making possession of it potentially unlawful in many countries
German researchers have discovered unknown persons are using bitcoin’s blockchain to store and link to child abuse imagery, potentially putting the cryptocurrency in jeopardy.
The blockchain is the open-source, distributed ledger that records every bitcoin transaction, but can also store small bits of non-financial data. This data is typically notes about the trade of bitcoin, recording what it was for or other metadata. But it can also be used to store links and files.
Researchers from the RWTH Aachen University, Germany found that around 1,600 files were currently stored in bitcoin’s blockchain. Of the files least eight were of sexual content, including one thought to be an image of child abuse and two that contain 274 links to child abuse content, 142 of which link to dark web services.
“Our analysis shows that certain content, eg, illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal,” . “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.”
“This especially endangers the multi-billion dollar markets powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”
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