If You Like Me, Please Don’t “Like” Me: Inferring Vendor Bitcoin Addresses From Positive Reviews

Authors: Jochen Schäfer (University of Mannheim), Christian Müller (University of Mannheim), Frederik Armknecht (University of Mannheim)

Volume: 2022
Issue: 1
Pages: 440–459
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2022-0022

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Abstract: Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular as a payment method in both legitimate and illegitimate online markets. Such markets usually deploy a review system that allows users to rate their purchases and help others to determine reliable vendors. Consequently, vendors are interested into accumulating as many positive reviews (likes) as possible and to make these public. However, we present an attack that exploits these publicly available information to identify cryptocurrency addresses potentially belonging to vendors. In its basic variant, it focuses on vendors that reuse their addresses. We also show an extended variant that copes with the case that addresses are used only once. We demonstrate the applicability of the attack by modeling Bitcoin transactions based on vendor reviews of two separate darknet markets and retrieve matching transactions from the blockchain. By doing so, we can identify Bitcoin addresses likely belonging to darknet market vendors.

Keywords: Bitcoin, Markets, Reviews, Identification

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