Deanonymizing tor hidden service users through bitcoin transactions analysis
AuthorAl Jawaheri, Husam Basil
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With the rapid increase of threats on the Internet, people are continuously seeking privacy and anonymity. Services such as Bitcoin and Tor were introduced to provide anonymity for online transactions and Web browsing. Due to its pseudonymity model, Bitcoin lacks retroactive operational security, which means historical pieces of information could be used to identify a certain user. We investigate the feasibility of deanonymizing users of Tor hidden services who rely on Bitcoin as a method of payment. In particular, we correlate the public Bitcoin addresses of users and services with their corresponding transactions in the Blockchain. In other words, we establish a provable link between a Tor hidden service and its user by simply showing a transaction between their two corresponding addresses. This subtle information leakage breaks the anonymity of users and may have serious privacy consequences, depending on the sensitivity of the use case. To demonstrate how an adversary can deanonymize hidden service users by exploiting leaked information from Bitcoin over Tor, we carried out a real-world experiment as a proof-of-concept. First, we collected public Bitcoin addresses of Tor hidden services from their .onion landing pages. Out of 1.5K hidden services we crawled, we found 88 unique Bitcoin addresses that have a healthy economic activity in 2017. Next, we collected public Bitcoin addresses from two channels of online social networks, namely, Twitter and the BitcoinTalk forum. Out of 5B tweets and 1M forum pages, we found 4.2K and 41K unique online identities, respectively, along with their public personal information and Bitcoin addresses. We then expanded the lists of Bitcoin addresses using closure analysis, where a Bitcoin address is used to identify a set of other addresses that are highly likely to be controlled by the same user. This allowed us to collect thousands more Bitcoin addresses for the users. By analyzing the transactions in the Blockchain, we were able to link up to 125 unique users to various hidden services, including sensitive ones, such as The Pirate Bay, Silk Road, and WikiLeaks. Finally, we traced concrete case studies to demonstrate the privacy implications of information leakage and user deanonymization. In particular, we show that Bitcoin addresses should always be assumed as compromised and can be used to deanonymize users.
- Computer Science & Engineering [42 items ]