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Enhancing Encryption Techniques Enable Child Abusers to Evade Detection

Cryptocurrency’s Dark Side: Evolving Tactics in Child Exploitation and the Growing Challenge for Law Enforcement

Cryptocurrency, once hailed for its privacy and decentralization, has become a double-edged sword in the fight against child sexual exploitation. The use of “mixers” and “privacy coins” like Monero has enabled perpetrators to launder profits and elude law enforcement. In this article, we delve into the findings of a recent report by cryptocurrency tracing firm Chainalysis, shedding light on the evolving strategies employed by those involved in the illicit trade of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM).

The Shifting Landscape of Crypto-based CSAM Sales

Overview of Chainalysis Research

Chainalysis, in its annual crime report, reveals a comprehensive analysis of blockchain data over the past four years, indicating a transformation in the scale and sophistication of crypto-based CSAM transactions. While the total revenue from CSAM sales has decreased since 2021, the increased use of privacy tools suggests a growing level of sophistication among perpetrators.

Longer Lifespan, Greater Impunity

Despite a decline in overall revenue, Chainalysis discovered that CSAM vendors active in 2023 managed to persist online for an average of 884 days, a significant increase from 560 days in 2022 and a mere 112 days in 2020. The longevity is attributed to the adoption of cryptocurrency mixers and “privacy coins,” providing a relative sense of impunity for these harmful actors.

The Role of Privacy Tools in Criminal Longevity

Cryptocurrency Mixers

Chainalysis emphasizes the rising use of cryptocurrency mixers, such as ChipMixer and Sinbad, to obscure money trails. Despite law enforcement crackdowns, these services remain a key component of CSAM vendors’ money laundering strategies. In 2023, approximately 46 percent of CSAM vendors utilized mixers, marking a substantial increase from 22 percent in 2020.

“Privacy Coins” and Instant Exchangers

A notable trend uncovered by Chainalysis is the increasing reliance on “privacy coins” like Monero. Notably, Monero has gained popularity among CSAM purveyors, being the preferred choice for laundering funds through instant exchangers. The report indicates that 52 percent of CSAM vendors in 2023 engaged in transactions involving Monero-friendly instant exchangers, up from 17 percent in 2020.

Correlation Between Monero Use and Criminal Survival

Chainalysis researchers discovered a correlation between CSAM vendors’ use of Monero-friendly instant exchangers and their increased survival rates online. After a thousand days, one in five vendors using Monero-friendly platforms remained active, compared to one in 25 who didn’t. The data suggests that Monero plays a pivotal role in helping CSAM vendors extend their criminal lifespans.

Declining Scale Amidst Growing Awareness

Decrease in Overall Transactions and New Vendors

While the tactics of CSAM vendors have evolved, Chainalysis reports a potential decline in the overall scale of the problem. Despite an 89 percent increase in CSAM-related cryptocurrency transactions since 2019, there was a 22 percent drop from 2022 to 2023. Additionally, the number of new vendors selling CSAM for cryptocurrency decreased from 112 in the previous year to 43 in 2023.

Impact of High-Profile Cases

Chainalysis speculates that high-profile cases, such as the Welcome to Video dark web site, may have raised awareness among CSAM perpetrators about the traceability of cryptocurrency. In the Welcome to Video case, Bitcoin tracing led to the identification and arrest of 337 individuals globally, showcasing the potential consequences for those involved in such illicit activities.


As cryptocurrency-based CSAM transactions become more sophisticated, law enforcement faces an uphill battle in tracking and prosecuting perpetrators. The integration of privacy tools, particularly Monero, presents a formidable challenge. Increased collaboration between the cryptocurrency industry, law enforcement, and technology experts is crucial to developing effective strategies and tools to combat this evolving threat. The findings from Chainalysis underscore the urgent need for continued vigilance and proactive measures in safeguarding the most vulnerable members of our society.


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