Bitcoin’s blockchain technology has often been called one of the leading innovations of the decade. But as the cryptocurrency gathers the support of governments and investors, it becomes imperative that all be should accurately known about the technology.
A research unveiled at the Black Hat Asia conference revealed that the Bitcoin blockchain runs a frightening risk of being embedded with malware bot mechanisms or other illegal data, including child abuse images. Since blockchain technology is the basic structure of almost all the virtual currencies, the risk applies to all of them.
The research mentions that since there is always an open space on blockchain – the public record of all the transactions – to store data, it can easily be targeted by criminals to inject malware. The threat was identified by a team of experts, an Interpol officer, and a seconded specialist from renowned software security group, Kaspersky Lab, in the Research and Innovation unit at Interpol’s Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI).
Kaspersky researcher Vitaly Kamluk created of proof of concept malware that was capable of collecting information from a hacker-controlled Bitcoin address and a transaction hash (encrypted form of a transaction). The malware then connects itself to the Bitcoin network, requests certain blockchain data from a Bitcoin address (the one containing the illegal data), and extracts the recipient Bitcoin wallet identifiers from the related transaction.
The main cause of concern is the ability of this technique to pollute the blockchain with unrelated data. Last year, an eerily similar threat was discovered when the Stoned virus was uploaded to the blockchain. Hackers who have been increasing their attacks on Bitcoin exchanges can also use the technique for targeting hardware on which Bitcoin wallets are installed and steal important personal information such as passwords.
As the digital currency ecosystem expands, it is for us to decide if we are willing to pay our security as a price for free transmission of payments.