Perhaps you bought some illegal narcotics on the Silk Road half a decade ago, back when that digital black market for every contraband imaginable was still online and bustling. You might already regret that decision, for any number of reasons.

After all, the four bitcoins you spent on that bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms would now be worth about as much as an Alfa Romeo. But one group of researchers wants to remind you of yet another reason to rue that transaction: If you weren’t particularly careful in how you spent your cryptocurrency, the evidence of that drug deal may still be hanging around in plain view of law enforcement, even years after the Silk Road was torn off the dark web.

Researchers at Qatar University and the country’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University earlier this week published findings that show just how easy it may be to dredge up evidence of years-old bitcoin transactions when spenders didn’t take carefully launder their payments. In well over 100 cases, they could connect someone’s bitcoin payment on a dark web site to that person’s public account.

In more than 20 instances, they say, they could easily link those public accounts to transactions specifically on the Silk Road, finding even some purchasers’ specific names and locations. “The retroactive operational security of bitcoin is low,” says Qatar University researcher Husam Al Jawaheri.

“When things are recorded in the blockchain, you can go back in history and reveal this information, to break the anonymity of users.” Bitcoin’s privacy paradox has long been understood by its savvier users: Because the cryptocurrency isn’t controlled by any bank or government, it can be very difficult to link anyone’s real-world identity with their bitcoin stash. Read more from wired.com…

thumbnail courtesy of wired.com