An Analysis of Anonymity in the Bitcoin System

Abstract

Anonymity in Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic currency system, is a complicated issue. Within the system, users are identified only by public-keys. An attacker wishing to de-anonymize users will attempt to construct the one-to-many mapping between users and public-keys, and associate information external to the system with the users. Bitcoin tries to prevent this attack by storing the mapping of a user to his or her public-keys on that user’s node only and by allowing each user to generate as many public-keys as required. In this chapter we consider the topological structure of two networks derived from Bitcoin’s public transaction history. We show that the two networks have a non-trivial topological structure, provide complementary views of the Bitcoin system, and have implications for anonymity. We combine these structures with external information and techniques such as context discovery and flow analysis to investigate an alleged theft of Bitcoins, which, at the time of the theft, had a market value of approximately US$500,000.

Keywords

Network analysis Anonymity Bitcoin 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Grant number 08/SRC/I1407: Clique: Graph and Network Analysis Cluster. The authors gratefully acknowledge this support. Both authors contributed equally to this work, which was performed independently of any industrial partnership or collaboration of the Clique Cluster.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clique Research Cluster, Complex and Adaptive Systems LaboratoryUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

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