Preventing criminal use of Blockchain target for EU project

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Jiraroj Praditcharoenkul
©iStock/Jiraroj Praditcharoenkul
A project to prevent criminal use of blockchain technology has been launched by fifteen consortium members from seven European countries.

The three-year €5m project funded by the European Union will develop ways to investigate and mitigate crime and terrorism involving virtual currencies and underground market transactions.

Blockchain technology is an electronic ledger under decentralised control which allows it to evade traditional investigation.

The best-known application is Bitcoin which has legitimate uses but is also used for criminal purposes in the dark web.

Partners of TITANIUM consortiu

  • Bundeskriminalamt (Germany)
  • Coblue Cybersecurity (Netherlands)
  • Countercraft S.L. (Spain)
  • dence GmbH (Germany)
  • Universität Innsbruck (Austria)
  • INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization)
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany)
  • Ministry of the Interior (Austria)
  • Ministry of the Interior (Spain)
  • National Bureau of Investigation (Finland)
  • TNO (Netherlands)
  • Trilateral Research Ltd. (UK)
  • University College London (UK)
  • VICOMTECH-IK4 (Spain)

The technology has already impacted food safety with Alibaba Australia trailing Blockchain in Australia and New Zealand, IBM and Walmart looking at the technology in China and Bureau Veritas telling us that it could ‘transform traceability’.

Prevent criminal use

Researchers, including four law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and INTERPOL, aim to develop tools to reveal common characteristics of criminal transactions, detect anomalies in usage and identify money-laundering techniques.

They will also do training to develop skills and knowledge among EU law enforcement agencies.

The TITANIUM (Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets) project will test and validate tools and services at the LEAs to assess effectiveness and overall impact.

Ross King, project coordinator, a senior scientist at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) said: “Criminal and terrorist activities related to virtual currencies and darknet markets evolve quickly and vary in technical sophistication, resilience and intended targets.”

Dr King said it was necessary to develop forensic tools enabling reasonable use of different types of data from various sources including virtual currency ledgers, online forums, peer-to-peer networks of underground markets and seized devices.

Dr King said tools developed within the project will respect individual privacy and other rights.

“The consortium will analyse legal and ethical requirements and define guidelines for storing and processing data, information, and knowledge involved in criminal investigations without compromising citizen privacy.”

Blockchain standard

Meanwhile, an ISO technical committee has been created to set related standards.

It has five study groups ahead of standard development: reference architecture, taxonomy and ontology, use cases, security and privacy, identity and smart contracts.

Craig Dunn, the chair of ISO/TC 307, for which the secretariat is held by Standards Australia, said blockchain technology can have huge implications in business and government.

“Blockchain technologies are a means of achieving trust and security when making exchanges, without the need for oversight by a trusted third party, and can be effective building blocks for other initiatives like anti-corruption and fraud prevention​,” he said.

“Future standardization in this area can take the development of these technologies  to the next step by providing internationally agreed ways of working, stimulating greater interoperability, speedier acceptance and enhanced innovation in their use and application.”

The next meeting is in November where future standards to be developed will be agreed.

Market examples

In related news, FoodBlockchain.XYZ has been selected for MassChallenge 2017, a programme for scaling up start-ups.

It is one of 255 start-ups which will participate in the four-month accelerator program where they receive mentoring from industry experts, tailored programming, free co-working space and access to corporate partners. 

FoodBlockchain.XYZ will take part in Switzerland but other accelerators are in Boston and Israel.

The firm will also present and showcase its technology at the 1st Global Conference of the 10YFP Sustainable Food Systems Programme, organised by the UN in Pretoria, South Africa on 21-23 June.

Finally, OwlTing, an e-commerce platform, has integrated Blockchain technologies into its supply chain infrastructure through partnerships with vendors like Nice Garden and Upwelling Ocean.

OwlTing and AMIS combined R&D capabilities in e-commerce and FinTech to build OwlChain, which is a food Blockchain provenance system.

Darren Wang, the founder of OwlTing, said it is ‘extremely meticulous’ when it comes to food. 

“Product with additives, artificial coloring or flavoring cannot be sold on OwlTing. While this business approach may seem unwise and cumbersome, our approach has identified over 1,500 farmers and merchants, and that's just in Taiwan.

“OwlTing consumers prefer natural and organic food ingredients, and they are willing to pay for high quality at reasonable prices. While most e-commerce platforms charge farmers with annual fees for product listing, OwlTing farmers pay zero annual fees and are only charged a low commission for each product sold on our platform.”

“Blockchain technology is unique as it cannot be altered, it's traceable, and it will bring higher credibility to our marine environment protection label​,” said founder Steven Shyu of Upwelling Ocean.

“Not only will it facilitate sustainable use of ocean resources in Taiwan, we can share this concept with fishing industries in other regions in the world that rely on local productions and distribution."

Related topics: R&D, Track and trace, Data management

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