A fistful of Bitcoins: Characterizing payments among men with no names

Sarah Meiklejohn, Marjori Pomarole, Grant Jordan, Kirill Levchenko, Damon McCoy, Geoffrey M. Voelker, Stefan Savage

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Bitcoin is a purely online virtual currency, unbacked by either physical commodities or sovereign obligation; instead, it relies on a combination of cryptographic protection and a peer-to-peer protocol for witnessing settlements. Consequently, Bitcoin has the unintuitive property that while the ownership of money is implicitly anonymous, its flow is globally visible. In this paper we explore this unique characteristic further, using heuristic clustering to group Bitcoin wallets based on evidence of shared authority, and then using re-identification attacks (i.e., empirical purchasing of goods and services) to classify the operators of those clusters. From this analysis, we consider the challenges for those seeking to use Bitcoin for criminal or fraudulent purposes at scale.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)86-93
    Number of pages8
    JournalCommunications of the ACM
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Apr 2016

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Computer Science


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