Unot of the most well-known attacks the Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general is the dusting attack. This is a very sophisticated type of attack that aims to allow hackers to break the privacy and pseudo-anonymity of many cryptocurrencies. A further proof that computer security is not an easy task and in blockchain technology the same rule applies. All this despite the intricacy and the use of cryptography in this technology. Despite this, this attack can jeopardize the privacy of its users.
In this article, we will talk about types of attacks and their risks. We will also understand how they are carried out, what risks they represent and how we can protect ourselves from them. Knowledge that will surely be very useful in protecting your most precious asset: your privacy.
What really is a dusting attack?
Un dusting attack It is an attack that aims to break the privacy and pseudo-anonymity that many cryptocurrencies provide. To achieve this, hackers use small transactions or dust (also known as dust) that are sent to hundreds or thousands of people. Dust is nothing more than a small transaction that is viewed as spam within the blockchain. Hackers use these small transactions as massive spam that is reflected in user balances.
Once there, hackers track user transactions. In this way and using powerful data analysis and tracking techniques, they can establish who is behind a certain Bitcoin address or some other cryptocurrency. They generally do this by doing data mining on different websites and the metadata they leave. All this as if it were a path of breadcrumbs. In which different tracks can lead hackers with the real identity of the user.
How is a dusting attack carried out?
Performing a dusting attack is not an easy task. It requires time, expertise and knowledge that few have. However, in essence a dusting attack is carried out by following these steps:
- You must have the necessary funds to carry out small transactions with victims. Hackers must have funds from cryptocurrencies that they will use to carry out the attack.
- They must know the dust or dust value limit of the cryptocurrency of their wallet and the blockchain network. In this way, they guarantee that small transactions will be carried out successfully. In Bitcoin for example, the dust value limit set to Bitcoin Core it is 546 satoshis. That is, from that point valid transactions can be made and they are considered as dust.
- A list of addresses of interest is made. This list will serve to establish the objectives. Generally aimed at people of recognized activity in the cryptocurrency or companies.
- Transactions are made to all target addresses. It is the start of dusting attack.
- Immediately begins with the analysis of transactions and data mining. In this way, if users make a transaction, hackers can track it. Analysis and mining is not only done on the blockchain, but on any website that may be related to the target. The idea is to create a "Listening area" very large to capture any movement. In this way, any data that is produced will be captured increasing the possibility of finding the real identity of the target.
- By targeting targets and their identities, hackers can reach out and devise other measures to coerce, cheat, or steal from their targets. It is the stage of "Capital recovery" from the malicious group.
The risks behind a dusting attack?
At this point you have probably already seen how really dangerous these types of attacks are. The main risk is the violation of the privacy of the user of a cryptocurrency. A situation that, in a chain, can lead to putting your life or that of family members at risk. It is an extreme case but everything can happen and it is good to foresee everything. But how is it possible to get to this point?
First of all, remember that blockchain transactions are public and can be viewed from a blockchain explorer. This means that the financial history of an address is visible and public. This is a situation that lends itself perfectly to these actions. Does this mean that the blockchain system is insecure?. The truth is, no. In any case, if these transactions were not public, we would lose the transparency of the system.
At this point, the best we can do is protect our private data and avoid exposing it publicly. Something difficult in an interconnected world of web services that use our data as merchandise. And there is the true enemy. Centralized services, with privacy policies and the use of weak and non-compliant data. It is not difficult to imagine websites and services like these, Facebook is the best known case globally, but not the only one.
Hence the importance of being able to exercise total and real control over our data. The relevance of creating decentralized systems that empower us with everything we do or don't do in the software we use. It is the epicenter of the spirit of the actions of the cryptanarchists and blockchain technology.
Why does this type of attack work if Bitcoin is anonymous?
Many people joined the cryptocurrency boom under the assumption that cryptocurrencies by nature guaranteed anonymity for online payments. However, this is completely false for the vast majority of existing cryptocurrencies, including the genesis of all this movement, Bitcoin. Bitcoin certainly offers you a very high degree of privacy, but privacy is not the same as anonymity. It is precisely the lack of anonymity that makes it possible to carry out a dusting attack.
Simply put, the Bitcoin is not anonymous, like many cryptocurrencies that exist today, except for those that have been created for that purpose such as Zcash y Monero.