Home Cryptocurrency News Bitcoin Now That All Bitcoin Miners Are Child Pornographers, How Do You Protect Yourself?

Now That All Bitcoin Miners Are Child Pornographers, How Do You Protect Yourself?

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at least one image of child pornography, as well as links to child pornography sites on the Dark Web, have been found on the Bitcoin blockchain.

The impact of this news is profound. Because of the fundamental distributed nature of blockchain, every Bitcoin miner has a full copy of the Bitcoin blockchain – including the offending content.

In other words, every Bitcoin miner is a child pornographer.

Geoff Stearns

Is this where Bitcoin miners belong?

‘Crime Apologizers’ Lose their Footing

When you strip away the hate speech and ad hominem attacks from the responses to my two recentarticles calling for dramatic changes to cryptocurrency, one counterargument rises to the top: what I call ‘crime apology.’

In essence, this argument is that because something else is a criminal enterprise, we should disregard the criminal aspects of cryptocurrencies. Criminals use US currency for criminal endeavors, so we should cut Bitcoin a break. Or perhaps the big banks commit fraud themselves, so what’s the big deal about organized crime getting into the cryptocurrency mining business?

Needless to say, these arguments are fallacious. One crime simply does not justify another. Don’t believe me? Try such an argument in any court on the planet.

Now we find that all miners have child pornography in their possession. The crime apology fallacy suddenly seems much weaker, as well it should.

In the US, possession of child pornography – even if you are unaware you possess it – is a serious felony. Laws in other jurisdictions vary to be sure, but in many the crime is even more severe than in the US.

Now that the news is out, pleading ignorance won’t hold water. Claiming you’re not at fault isn’t much better. Even the position that you never actually viewed the image in question is a weak argument – although extracting the image file would indubitably make your situation worse.

What are your options?

Protecting Yourself from Criminal Liability

I will state the obvious: you must delete all copies of the Bitcoin blockchain from any computer you control. All mining rigs, all mining pools, all backups. Right now.

You must also cease all Bitcoin mining activity, since such activity necessarily requires you to possess a copy of the blockchain. Deleting it makes no difference if you turn around and download it again.

The authorities will certainly have their hands full tracking down people who possess this contraband, but it’s only a matter of time till they get to you. Is it worth the risk?

The Bitcoin community will likely work together to clean up the blockchain. Even though it’s supposed to be immutable, a global consensus can agree to roll it back. In fact, the Bitcoin blockchain has been rolled back at least once already.

Whether the blockchain will have to be rolled back to the block before the first offending content was added, thus deleting every Bitcoin transaction since, or whether there’s a way to remove only those offending blocks while stitching together the rest remains to be seen.

Regardless of the technical details, however, any such transformative changes to the blockchain will require a consensus – and consensuses take time. In the meantime, authorities will be tracking down remaining miners, one by one.

In addition, any such change to the blockchain is a hard fork – essentially leaving the original Bitcoin intact while spawning a new altcoin. In this instance, however, a hard fork isn’t good enough, because the original Bitcoin blockchain must be permanently removed from play.

Assuming the community can clean up the blockchain, however, there is still the open question as to how to prevent illegal content being added once again – a concern that applies to every permissionless blockchain, not just Bitcoin’s. For all we know, Ethereum and all the others already have child pornography on their respective blockchains.

The Cryptojacking Twist: What if You’re a Miner and you Don’t Even Know it?

My recent articles have sounded a warning about cryptojacking: where malicious parties use phishing or other hacking techniques to surreptitiously slip mining software onto the computers of unsuspecting businesses and individuals.

If you’re worried about illicit cryptomining software on your computer network already, you now have to worry that it also contains child pornography.

There is a bit of good news: most such illicit software actually mines Monero, not Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.

Illicit Bitcoin mining is also out there, and furthermore, it requires large botnets to generate sufficient funds for the criminals behind the effort. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that the general preference for Monero protects you.

Secondly, there’s no way to know whether the Monero blockchain is similarly affected.

One of my concerns about cryptojacking is whether enterprise security teams will take the threat seriously, given its relatively benign behavior relative to cyberthreats that actively seek to steal assets.

Now that child pornography is in the mix, my concern has shifted. Now I’m more worried that the lack of information about the risk will trump the lack of concern.

Cleaning up the Bitcoin Cryptojacking Mess

Let’s assume for the moment that first, the Bitcoin community cleans up its blockchain and second, that your organization is running illicit Bitcoin mining software from before the fix. Will that fix solve your problem?

Unfortunately, no. The criminals who installed the cryptojacking software on your network couldn’t update it even if they wanted to, because there was no reason for them to establish a command and control link to the illicit software. Once installed, it runs on its own, crediting is proceeds to the criminal’s account.

If the Bitcoin blockchain is forced to change, any illicit Bitcoin mining software will likely cease to work properly. However, it may still consume processor cycles and electricity, and any child pornography in the software will remain on your network until you actively remove it.

The moral of this story, in case you haven’t figured it out yet: permissionless blockchain is a bad idea. For blockchain to have any chance of long-term success, we must follow strict ‘know your miner’ governance policies, which require a permissioned approach. Time to bite that bullet.

Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. The author does not own, nor does he intend to own, Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. Nothing in this article is intended to be investment advice. Image credit: Geoff Stearns.

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The Bitcoin community is abuzz with the news that at least one image of child pornography, as well as links to child pornography sites on the Dark Web, have been found on the Bitcoin blockchain.

The impact of this news is profound. Because of the fundamental distributed nature of blockchain, every Bitcoin miner has a full copy of the Bitcoin blockchain – including the offending content.

In other words, every Bitcoin miner is a child pornographer.

Geoff Stearns

Is this where Bitcoin miners belong?

‘Crime Apologizers’ Lose their Footing

When you strip away the hate speech and ad hominem attacks from the responses to my two recentarticles calling for dramatic changes to cryptocurrency, one counterargument rises to the top: what I call ‘crime apology.’

In essence, this argument is that because something else is a criminal enterprise, we should disregard the criminal aspects of cryptocurrencies. Criminals use US currency for criminal endeavors, so we should cut Bitcoin a break. Or perhaps the big banks commit fraud themselves, so what’s the big deal about organized crime getting into the cryptocurrency mining business?

Needless to say, these arguments are fallacious. One crime simply does not justify another. Don’t believe me? Try such an argument in any court on the planet.

Now we find that all miners have child pornography in their possession. The crime apology fallacy suddenly seems much weaker, as well it should.

In the US, possession of child pornography – even if you are unaware you possess it – is a serious felony. Laws in other jurisdictions vary to be sure, but in many the crime is even more severe than in the US.

Now that the news is out, pleading ignorance won’t hold water. Claiming you’re not at fault isn’t much better. Even the position that you never actually viewed the image in question is a weak argument – although extracting the image file would indubitably make your situation worse.

What are your options?

Protecting Yourself from Criminal Liability

I will state the obvious: you must delete all copies of the Bitcoin blockchain from any computer you control. All mining rigs, all mining pools, all backups. Right now.

You must also cease all Bitcoin mining activity, since such activity necessarily requires you to possess a copy of the blockchain. Deleting it makes no difference if you turn around and download it again.

The authorities will certainly have their hands full tracking down people who possess this contraband, but it’s only a matter of time till they get to you. Is it worth the risk?

The Bitcoin community will likely work together to clean up the blockchain. Even though it’s supposed to be immutable, a global consensus can agree to roll it back. In fact, the Bitcoin blockchain has been rolled back at least once already.

Whether the blockchain will have to be rolled back to the block before the first offending content was added, thus deleting every Bitcoin transaction since, or whether there’s a way to remove only those offending blocks while stitching together the rest remains to be seen.

Regardless of the technical details, however, any such transformative changes to the blockchain will require a consensus – and consensuses take time. In the meantime, authorities will be tracking down remaining miners, one by one.

In addition, any such change to the blockchain is a hard fork – essentially leaving the original Bitcoin intact while spawning a new altcoin. In this instance, however, a hard fork isn’t good enough, because the original Bitcoin blockchain must be permanently removed from play.

Assuming the community can clean up the blockchain, however, there is still the open question as to how to prevent illegal content being added once again – a concern that applies to every permissionless blockchain, not just Bitcoin’s. For all we know, Ethereum and all the others already have child pornography on their respective blockchains.

The Cryptojacking Twist: What if You’re a Miner and you Don’t Even Know it?

My recent articles have sounded a warning about cryptojacking: where malicious parties use phishing or other hacking techniques to surreptitiously slip mining software onto the computers of unsuspecting businesses and individuals.

If you’re worried about illicit cryptomining software on your computer network already, you now have to worry that it also contains child pornography.

There is a bit of good news: most such illicit software actually mines Monero, not Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.

Illicit Bitcoin mining is also out there, and furthermore, it requires large botnets to generate sufficient funds for the criminals behind the effort. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that the general preference for Monero protects you.

Secondly, there’s no way to know whether the Monero blockchain is similarly affected.

One of my concerns about cryptojacking is whether enterprise security teams will take the threat seriously, given its relatively benign behavior relative to cyberthreats that actively seek to steal assets.

Now that child pornography is in the mix, my concern has shifted. Now I’m more worried that the lack of information about the risk will trump the lack of concern.

Cleaning up the Bitcoin Cryptojacking Mess

Let’s assume for the moment that first, the Bitcoin community cleans up its blockchain and second, that your organization is running illicit Bitcoin mining software from before the fix. Will that fix solve your problem?

Unfortunately, no. The criminals who installed the cryptojacking software on your network couldn’t update it even if they wanted to, because there was no reason for them to establish a command and control link to the illicit software. Once installed, it runs on its own, crediting is proceeds to the criminal’s account.

If the Bitcoin blockchain is forced to change, any illicit Bitcoin mining software will likely cease to work properly. However, it may still consume processor cycles and electricity, and any child pornography in the software will remain on your network until you actively remove it.

The moral of this story, in case you haven’t figured it out yet: permissionless blockchain is a bad idea. For blockchain to have any chance of long-term success, we must follow strict ‘know your miner’ governance policies, which require a permissioned approach. Time to bite that bullet.

Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. The author does not own, nor does he intend to own, Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. Nothing in this article is intended to be investment advice. Image credit: Geoff Stearns.

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