How can Blockchain Technology Benefit Law Enforcement?

    Tanya Sharma
    Tanya Sharma
    Published on January 31, 2023 08:25 AM

    It is now possible to track and analyze transactions that are linked to crimes and criminals. We may use blockchain technology to create crime reports on a distributed ledger, which will aid law enforcement authorities in combating crime and money laundering.

    How can Blockchain Technology Benefit Law Enforcement?
    Source: Unsplash

    The US government was the first to employ blockchain technology to investigate and bring down the Silk Road, a dark-web platform that sold drugs, weapons, and everything else illegal on the globe.

    The problem of spreading cybercrime is growing more significant today, and industrialized countries with high GDP rates are affected far more than poor countries.

    Today, blockchain technology is assisting in the discovery of crimes in innovative ways that do not require face-to-face encounters. 

    In a blockchain, data is stored in blocks linked together in chronological order with a hash that provides a unique identity. We can't change data on a blockchain; we can only add it with timestamps, and no single stakeholder can control it because it's distributed across a vast network of computers.

    This technology has not yet been used by law enforcement organizations, but it is a hot topic in the criminal justice industry, with numerous competing companies creating blockchain evidence management solutions.

    The use of blockchain in physical evidence management has the potential to improve supervision and accountability in an already faulty system. Let's learn more about how blockchain technology and cyber security, its use cases, and its future prospects.

    Related: Crypto monitoring tools and blockchain analysis help to avoid cryptocurrency fraud

    What are blockchain technology and cyber security?

    Blockchain technology generates a data format with intrinsic security properties. It is founded on cryptography, decentralization, and consensus concepts that ensure transaction confidence. Most blockchains or distributed ledger technology (DLT) arrange data into blocks, with each block containing a transaction or set of transactions.

    Each new block in a cryptographic chain connects to all the blocks before it in such a way that it is nearly impossible to tamper with. A consensus process validates and agrees on all transactions within the blocks, ensuring that each transaction is truthful and correct.

    While blockchain technology creates a tamper-proof transaction ledger, blockchain networks are vulnerable to cyberattacks and fraud. Those with malicious intent can exploit known weaknesses in blockchain technology and have been successful in a variety of hacks and frauds throughout the years. 

    Here are a couple of examples:

    Code exploitation

    Through code exploitation, the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), a venture capital fund based on a decentralized blockchain inspired by Bitcoin, was plundered of more than USD 60 million in ether digital currency – roughly one-third of its value.

    Loss of keys

    The theft of roughly USD 73 million in client bitcoins from Hong Kong-based Bitfinex, one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, revealed that the currency remains a significant danger. The most likely cause was the theft of private keys, which serve as personal digital signatures.

    Employee computer hacked

    When Bithumb, one of the major Ethereum and bitcoin cryptocurrency exchanges, was recently attacked, hackers compromised the data of 30,000 customers and stole USD 870,000 in bitcoin. Even though it was an employee's computer that was hacked rather than the core servers, the incident prompted concerns about overall security.

    Also Read: Blockchain Technology Advances to Avoid Retail Burglary

    Detecting Crypto-Crime

    Cryptocurrencies are sometimes depicted as a shelter for criminals, and the fact that around $1.2 billion in Bitcoin was transferred on the now-defunct Silk Road drug marketplace over roughly two and a half years does not help this view.

    However, the problem cuts both ways; cryptocurrency investors are frequently victims of theft and fraud, which can be difficult to track down, prove, or prosecute. Year-to-date, a reported $1.7 billion in cryptocurrencies has been stolen as of the end of June 2018. That implies more than $4 billion in cryptocurrencies might be stolen before the end of the year.

    Companies Attempting to Solve This Issue

    • Chainalysis is a service that monitors cryptocurrencies for fraudulent behavior.

    • Elliptic is a Pattern recognition to detect suspected crypto crime.

    Securing the Evidence Chain of Custody

    Though physical evidence cannot yet be physically stored on the blockchain, it is possible to document who has touched any evidence, as well as essential information about storage methods and other critical information. Tamper-proofing documents of provenance and chain of custody are critical when it comes to evidence.

    The current evidence locker sign-in sheet method of keeping evidence is clearly not tamper-proof. Greater oversight over where, when, and how evidence is maintained and handled would place the onus on those who manage it to do so carefully — or face the wrath of accountability.

    Companies Attempting to Solve This Issue

    • CryptoSeal: It is a tamper-proof, blockchain-registered evidence container from Chronicled.

    • Leonovus: It is a blockchain-based evidence storage system.

    • B-CoC: It is a Cornell Library paper outlining the proof criteria for a blockchain chain of custody.

    • China Ministry of Public Security: Using blockchain to track the chain of custody of evidence.

    Data Sharing that is Secure, Interoperable, and Interagency

    The FBI developed the Nationwide Data Exchange, an $85 million data-sharing warehouse, in 2008 in an effort to organize information exchange on a national level for the benefit of all law enforcement agencies and departments.

    However, five years after the system's inception, only around 4,200 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement outposts — or roughly 23% — were sending data to it.

    The cost of technology changes required to fully participate, as well as worries about the security of such a database, are two of the key reasons for this lag in participation.

    Companies Attempting to Solve This Issue

    • FDA and Booz Allen Hamilton: While not law enforcement, the FDA has contracted with BAH to develop a blockchain-based data-sharing platform. Because BAH provides services to the Department of Defense, similar programs might be secretly rolled out to military departments.

    • Deloitte: Deloitte's government practice discussed how blockchain could aid with Intergovernmental Transactions.

    Disadvantages of blockchain in cybersecurity

    Criminals might use high degrees of encryption to protect their identity on a blockchain. There is also the risk of creating a more decentralized internet, such as blockchain earth, which would make monitoring and removing information such as child pornography and terrorism-inciting material extremely difficult.

    That a thriving dark-net marketplace like as Silk Road marketplace could be brought down even at the early stages of cryptocurrency investigators demonstrates that law enforcement has established an impressive capacity to analyze and trace transactions using blockchain.

    During the Silk Road investigation, blockchain showed how DEA agent Carl Force stole bitcoins while attempting to conceal their origin and destination.

    Hope for a better future

    Mishandling of evidence can result in false convictions, forever altering the lives of the individuals involved. Blockchain technology could enable control and law enforcement, which could save the lives of hundreds of people who have been unfairly prosecuted. 

    Blockchain technology is required to demolish an unjust court system and build a future of accountability, transparency, and justice.

    The risk of monitoring will become more affordable and less risky by employing blockchain technology to monitor, flag, and analyze transactions that may be directly related to violent criminality. 

    There are also various administrative and bookkeeping tasks that technology can play, such as preserving the chain of custody and interagency data exchange, which will free up finances to supplement the more life-saving resources that law enforcement agents demand.

    Blockchain Technology in Law Enforcement FAQs

    How can blockchain help the police?

    Blockchain has the potential to drastically improve security protocols by offering quick and cost-effective options for safeguarding sensitive police documents

    How does blockchain operate in the legal system?

    To resolve conflicts between the two parties, a judge court within the blockchain network can access time-stamped recordings of information. The jury can record its decision on the blockchain, which will be accessible to all network members.

    What role does blockchain technology play in e-governance?

    E-governance supported by blockchain technology comprises improving public service delivery by using information and communication technology frameworks.