Did law enforcement in Finland crack Monero’s privacy technologies?

Cybercrime experts in Finland claim to have achieved a forensic breakthrough that heuristically concluded the probabilistic outcome of a Monero transaction.

This is according to Marko Leposen of Finland’s national bureau of investigation (KRP).

If true, the news would devastate a community that has believed in Monero’s absolute, on-chain privacy for a decade.

As reported by a division of Telia in Finland called MTV News (no association with the Los Angeles-based entertainment brand), investigators calculated that it was “very likely” that someone illegally sent XMR to Binance in a series of transactions involving a crime. Unfortunately for the public, they did not disclose their methods.

No details about cracking the code

The criminal case involves ​​Julius Aleksanteri Kivimäki who allegedly hacked a health database and demanded a ransom. According to prosecutors, he received bitcoin payments from individual victims and then attempted to use Monero to obfuscate that money.

According to their report, “Police don’t want to tell criminals or anyone else how the anonymous cryptocurrency could have been traced. Working tracing methods could be of significant help to KRP in other ongoing or future criminal investigations” (translated from Finnish). Although it’s frustrating, withholding means and methods for future investigative power is a common practice among law enforcement.

Reigning for years as the world’s most popular, anonymous cryptocurrency, Monero has a committed community of privacy-focused users. Its Confidential Transaction (CT) technology enhances ring signatures and stealth addresses, making on-chain transactions using Monero’s native XMR coin almost impossible to trace. The law enforcement case in Finland involves a possible breach of Monero’s CT privacy.

Cryptographer Nicolas van Saberhagen wrote Monero’s whitepaper. Major figures in the crypto industry have contributed to the project, including Greg Maxwell, Franciso Cabañas, Riccardo Spagni, and many others.

Monero advocates respond to the Finland news

Observers on X (formerly Twitter) responded with a mix of disbelief and outrage. According to one observer, the criminal target was so easy to identify that law enforcement probably wouldn’t have needed to actually break Monero’s encryption.

Another observer agreed with that sentiment, concluding, “The network is still secure.”

In the last two days, all crypto news outlets have echoed information claiming that Finnish authorities have been able to trace #Monero transactions in a ransomware case and arrest the person responsible.

Knowing Monero’s technology thoroughly, I was very surprised because today…

— Rick C312 (@TrueRick312) January 28, 2024

A Monero advocate is skeptical that any breakthrough occurred.

Read more: You can now see Binance law enforcement requests for $10K in Bitcoin or Monero

Due to a legal system in Finland that allows sealing of means and methods from public view, it’s impossible to determine whether or not law enforcement in the country found a secret power to break Monero’s cryptography.

For years, many investigative agencies have claimed that XMR transactions are not entirely private, yet the network has remained popular. Every day, millions of dollars worth of XMR change hands around the world. Perhaps law enforcement knows each counterparty — or maybe not.

SOURCE

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