Researchers identify ‘safe haven’ for child sex abuse images

Interpol cyber threat researchers have identified a threat to the blockchain (shared public ledger) in virtual transactions that could result in them being embedded with malware or other illegal data, including child abuse images.

Apr 22, 2015
By Paul Jacques
Haroon Iqbal

Interpol cyber threat researchers have identified a threat to the blockchain (shared public ledger) in virtual transactions that could result in them being embedded with malware or other illegal data, including child abuse images.

Interpol says the design of the blockchain means there is the possibility of malware being injected and permanently hosted with no methods currently available to wipe this data. This could affect ‘cyber hygiene’ as well as the sharing of child sexual abuse images, where the blockchain could become a safe haven for hosting such data.

Depending on the cryptocurrency and its protocols, there is a fixed open space on the blockchain – the public ‘ledger’ of transactions – where data can be stored, referenced or hosted within encrypted transactions and their records.

It is this open space that was identified as the potential target for malware by the research and innovation unit at Interpol’s Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI).

It could also enable crime scenarios in the future, such as the deployment of modular malware, a reshaping of the distribution of zero-day attacks, as well as the creation of illegal underground marketplaces dealing in private keys, which would allow access to this data.

“To conduct this type of research and identify new cyber threats were among the key aims behind the creation of the ICGI,” said IGCI executive director Noboru Nakatani. “Having identified this threat, it is now important for Interpol to spread awareness among the public and law enforcement, as well as encourage support from communities working in this field to find solutions for the potential blockchain ‘abuse’.”

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