Recently, prominent Ethereum blockchain explorer Etherscan announced the launch of “ETH Protect,” a new tool that seeks to identify and flag Ether (ETH) addresses in receipt of tainted funds associated with crypto exchange hacks, attacks, and other illicit activities.
ETH Protect to Identify Funds Associated with Criminal Activities
Leading Ethereum blockchain explorer Etherscan wants to track down tainted ETH funds right down to their place of origin, and it seeks to do this via its newly launched service – ETH Protect.
In a recent announcement, Etherscan launched ETH Protect to identify, and eventually, mitigate instances of crypto exchange hacks, phishing attacks, scams, and exploits.
To give some context, crypto-criminals, after successfully hacking exchange platforms or conning unsuspicious digital asset holders, quickly move the stolen funds across several wallet addresses. From there, they typically continue moving these funds around from one wallet to another until they “wash” such funds into fiat.
The new service will reportedly be able to identify and label tainted ETH addresses manually. Although time -consuming, the team at EtherScan believes that the upside potential from the service could well offset the time-costs associated with it.
What’s more, ETH Protect will use the Taint Inference Analysis Engine which leverages machine learning internal systems to trace and identify tainted funds based on the uniqueness of the scenario.
How Does it Work?
Etherscan stated it receives “daily user reports on suspicious fraudulent activities.” These activities are verified by Etherscan security research analysts. Finally, once confirmed, the ETH wallet addresses associated with such nefarious activities are added into the firm’s database.
The service allows real-time tracing of tainted funds in that once a tainted address is identified, any transfer of tainted funds from its point of origin is traced and highlighted up to the latest activity block. Notably, this tracing is dynamic in nature meaning the engine constantly traces and identifies any newly tainted addresses.
A Double-Edged Sword
Although noble in its intentions, Ether Protect didn’t particularly succeed in impressing every crypto-enthusiast on the web, and for obvious reasons.
I think this is reasonable. People who aren't experts need epistemic aids to warn about scams; we don't want an unmediated information environment, we want a *competitively mediated* information environment.
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) April 14, 2020
Ryan Sean Adams, founder, Mythos, stated the new service could greatly endanger the future of user privacy. It could also, realistically, result in the flagging of such wallet addresses that were never involved in criminal activities per se.