CipherTrace, the blockchain analytic company, has filed two Monero tracing patent applications. The two patents– (1) Systems and Methods for Investigating Monero techniques, and (2) Probabilistic Methods for Tracing Monero–cover:
Forensic tools to explore Monero transaction flows to assist in financial investigations.
Development of original tracing methodologies based on simulation techniques and Bayesian approaches.
Statistical and probabilistic methods for scoring transactions and clustering likely owners.
Monero decoy reduction.
Probabilistic approaches to risk-based Monero money-laundering controls.
Transaction visualization tools and ways to track stolen Monero currencies or illicit Monero.
Methodologies for gaining intelligence about transactions that rely on third-party nodes.
Active participation in the Monero network to gain intelligence,
According to CipherTrace’s official announcement.
But can you really trace Monero?
In September, CipherTrace claimed to be the first company in the world with the ability to trace Monero transactions. The United States Department of Homeland Security contracted with CipherTrace for a total of $3.6 million so that the Monero tracing technology could be created.
However, it was later revealed that CipherTrace’s Monero tracking tool might not be as complete as it seemed.
“You can’t be as deterministic as Bitcoin. In tracing Monero, it’s really more of a probabilistic game,” said CipherTrace CEO Dave Jevans when he appeared on the Decrypt Daily Podcast. “You can say: Well, I have 98% probability that this went from this address to this address, or 78%, or that type of thing. It takes a different approach, rather than [saying]: I’m going to guarantee everything is perfect…”
Jevan’s statements make it clear that CipherTrace’s current Monero tracing tool has a similar end result as predicting the weather; where at the end of the day, we can say an event will happen with a percentage of certainty but not 100% certainty.
The quest to crack Monero
What also indicates that CipherTrace’s Monero tracing tool may not be fool-proof, is that shortly after the Department of Homeland Security awarded CipherTrace a contract to create a Monero tool, the IRS created a proposal, saying it was in search of a company that could break Monero’s privacy. If CipherTrace’s tool could really do this, then the IRS would have contracted with them instead of giving away $1.25 million total, $625,000 to each company, that they awarded contracts to–Chainalysis and Integra FEC.
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