A little-known fact about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and others, is that, contrary to popular belief, they aren't anonymous. Perhaps the belief that they are anonymous persists because rather than using real names in transactions, crypto transactions such as sending bitcoin from one wallet to another only require a string of text and numbers known as public addresses.
Public addresses, however, are pseudonymous
, and still provide anyone with the sophistication and resources the ability to track down the personal details of the actors within an exchange. Within the last year, several well-known and popular figures within the cryptocurrency industry have had their identities and funds compromised, with millions of dollars lost. Pseudonymity is not Anonymity
Just because your name, birthdate, and geographic location are not apparently tied to your cryptocurrency wallet doesn't mean that they can't be found out using your public address alone. The reason for this is simple: blockchain analysis. What is blockchain analysis? There are two forms of it; one is simple, the other much more sophisticated.
The simple version of blockchain analysis is one that anyone with access to the internet can perform. On any block explorer, whether it's for Bitcoin, Qtum, Neo, Ethereum, or Icon, you will find a search field into which any wallet address can be looked up. If you input your own public address, you will see the entire history of your financial activity on the blockchain laid bare. Who you've sent to, who you've received from, and what you own on the blockchain are all part of the public domain of blockchain information that is viewable by the world. If you're thinking that it's not a problem since you've got your public address shielding your real identity, then think again.
The sophisticated method of blockchain analysis aims to make connections and uncover a logic between different entities on blockchains. Essentially, this type of blockchain analysis views blockchains as massive Sudoku puzzles -- and with enough computer power and effective enough algorithms, patterns can be easily found on blockchains that lead hackers, blockchain analysis startups working for government organizations, and others straight to your actual
Consider the way you entered into the cryptocurrency market in the first place. You had to buy bitcoin using Coinbase, Kraken, Bithumb, or another exchange with a fiat to crypto gateway. Doing so required your personal and bank details owing to the fact that regulated exchanges must comply with KYC (know-your-customer) and AML (anti-money-laundering) laws. After entering all of the required personal information, the exchange set about to confirm your details by sharing them with other third-party KYC organizations.
Finally, your documents and details were verified, allowing the chance to enter the market. After your you bought bitcoin, the natural thing to do was send it away from the exchange wallet and into your own software or hardware wallet. Then, perhaps you sent some bitcoin to Binance in order to buy a cryptocurrency asset such as ethereum. After purchasing ETH, perhaps you sent it back to your wallet before using it to participate in an ICO. This entire web of financial activity may seem disconnected and hard to trace, yet to a powerful enough blockchain analysis engine tracing all the way back to your initial exchange of purchase would have no problem at all uncovering your IP address and, eventually, your identity. Using Anonymity to Protect your Digital Assets
The above scenario is in large part why privacy tokens such as Apollo Currency, Monero, Verge, and Dash have found popularity and value within cryptocurrency markets. Essentially, users are looking for a cryptocurrency asset which gives them the private, financial autonomy blockchain seemed to promise in its early days without being exposed to the possibility of being hacked, monitored, or otherwise controlled by outside parties. Which Are the Best Coin for Anonymity?
The top contenders in the cryptocurrency marketplace for taking best privacy coin honors are Monero, Verge, and Dash, and Apollo Currency. Despite having some similarities, they are all in fact quite different. After the comparison, we'll share the reasons why three of these coins fail to provide adequate privacy while only one of them provides true anonymity and more. Dash
Dash is a digital currency and payment network that places its privacy feature as an option rather than as the main feature. For this alone, it is already on the backfoot. Rather than have privacy built into every transaction as a standard, the Dash development team instead opted to give users the option
to make transactions private using a feature called PrivateSend.
Despite having started out as Darkcoin, Dash changed paths and began focusing on mass-adoption and placed it's anonymity features to the side. As such, there are concerns around the centralization of Dash masternodes which are largely hosted by cloud AWS services leading to legitimate worry that government agencies could one day demand, and have access to, transaction logs.
Beyond this, Dash does not feature stealth addresses, encrypted messaging, IP masking, or a secure form of coin shuffling. Dash relies on CoinJoin for its PrivateSend feature which requires users to negotiate with each other during the transaction process. Monero
Monero has the largest reputation when it comes to anonymous cryptocurrency. Apart from enjoying wide adoption and a stellar market capitalization, Monero is open-source and uses a proof-of-work algorithm for consensus along with RingCT signatures for privacy.
In sharp contrast to Dash, Monero is not a privacy-optional coin. Every transaction uses RingCT (confidential-transactions) to hide the sources of transactions in a given set. In theory, this should shield every transaction with anonymity, yet in practice, quite the opposite has been found. Researchers from MIT published a report titled "An Empirical Analysis of Traceability in the Monero Blockchain" wherein they revealed that they were able to trace 80% of Monero transactions prior to the integration of RingCT and 45% of transactions after its integration.
Beyond this, Monero lacks an encrypted messaging platform, does not mask IP addresses, does not function as a bitcoin mixer, and its proof-of-work consensus algorithm has significant negative effects on the environment. Verge
Verge deserves a mention if only because of its bold claims. Prior to their Wraith update, Verge developers claimed that they would use Tor and I2P networks to anonymize user IP addresses. Unfortunately, not long after the Wraith update was announced, it appeared that Tor had not been integrated at all and several cryptocurrency whistleblower websites were able to track IP addresses involved in Verge transactions.
Initially called DogeCoinDark, Verge also uses two ledgers -- a private and a public ledger. This is to allow users the option of switching between ledgers depending on the type of transaction made and the level of disclosure the user prefers for that transaction. Like Monero, Verge lacks a coin shuffling function, claims to mask IP addresses but fails in practice, does not offer an alias system (meaning users can not encrypt text), and relies on a slow proof-of-work algorithm for consensus. Apollo Currency
Apollo Currency picks up where privacy coins prior to it have left off and then goes several leaps further. Rather than offer a cut-rate privacy coin, Apollo has taken the strengths of other privacy coins and made them stronger, while also containing what they lack -- namely, real anonymity and financial freedom on the blockchain.
Apollo's Olympus Protocol ushers forth a new paradigm of anonymous transactions using a host of innovations. IP masking via Tor will allow for untraceable transactions directly from the Apollo wallet without the risk of having a compromised IP address somewhere down the line. Apollo also features coin-shuffling which, like bitcoin mixing, is a process for coin anonymization that makes shuffled coins resistant to tracing and blockchain analysis.
The way this works is simple - Apollo users simply send their coins through the shuffling mechanism which then pools user coins together, mixes them, then sends each user their specified amount of coins back from different sources than they started with. The result is complete anonymity and a break in the connection between sending and receiving addresses.
Apollo's encrypted messaging platform furthers the total anonymity offered by the currency. Users can communicate and transfer files without a trace, all the while having their IP addresses masked by Olympus Protocol. Conclusion
Until Monero and Verge clear up the allegations made by researchers from MIT and other institutions that users are vulnerable to having their IP addresses exposed, I would steer clear of them. Dash and Apollo Currency are proven and both offer coin shuffling which is a real, proven coin anonymization technique that offers the best of privacy.
As always, it's best to DYOR (do your own research).
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