The well-known blockchain investigation firm Chainalysis seemingly has a new target: Monero. During a recent webinar concerning illicit crypto activity, presenters from the firm stated that “Monero is our top priority.” But can Chainalysis really succeed in analyzing Monero, or is this just a distant and unlikely goal?
Chainalysis originally rose to prominence after it succeeded in tracing Bitcoin transactions and deducing the identities of address owners. The firm has since expanded its efforts into tracking other coins and investigating certain crimes. Chainalysis has previously worked with the IRS to fight tax evasion; more recently, it joined forces with Binance to combat money laundering.
But despite its past accomplishments, it is uncertain that Chainalysis will have much success tracing Monero. The company has managed to analyze Bitcoin transactions extensively due to the fact that Bitcoin relies on a public ledger. But Monero, as a privacy coin, doesn’t reveal transaction data on its ledger, making significant analysis virtually impossible.
Furthermore, it’s not clear what techniques Chainalysis is using. Recent academic findings have suggested that it is possible to expose some of Monero’s older transactions, and this technique might be in Chainalysis’s toolkit. Chainalysis’s data may also be very superficial: the firm’s members have previously commented on Monero’s presence in dark web transactions. Other comments suggest that Chainalysis is simply cooperating with exchanges and obtaining KYC data.
Incidentally, Chainalysis’s interest in Monero has come to light about two months after the Department of Homeland Security expressed a desire to trace two privacy coins–Monero and Zcash. Zcash tracing could be partially viable due to the fact that privacy is optional on that platform, but Monero makes private transactions mandatory. As such, Monero has succeeded in keeping transaction data private, meaning that Monero-tracing efforts will probably prove to be fruitless.
Meanwhile, Chainalysis will surely continue to make inroads in other areas. During the webinar, the presenters also covered the activities of two notable cybercrime groups, the state of darknet markets, the evolution of Ethereum scams, and topics concerning money laundering. These are all areas of investigation that Chainalysis will surely continue to excel in, even if the firm’s efforts around Monero prove to be less successful.