CipherTrace, a self-described “Blockchain Forensics Team,” reportedly created “Monero tracing” toolsfor the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Below is the relevant portion of the press release (also available here).

CipherTrace’s contract with DHS Science & Technology Directorate resulted in the development of forensic tools for law enforcement and government agencies to trace and visualize Monero transaction flows for criminal investigations. CipherTrace developed tools to explore Monero transactions to assist in investigations. These tools include transaction search, exploration, and visualization tools for Monero transaction flows that have been integrated with CipherTrace’s Inspector financial investigations product. This provides ways to track stolen Monero currencies or Monero currencies used in illegal transactions. It also helps assure cryptocurrency exchanges, OTC trading desks, investment funds and custody providers that they do not accept Monero from illicit sources and investigate Monero received from potentially illicit sources and take appropriate actions to stay in compliance.

With 45% of darknet markets now using Monero—the second-favorite cryptocurrency of choice among criminals just behind bitcoin—law enforcement interest in Monero tracing has soared. Monero employs a particularly unique design to ensure user anonymity including always-on, enforced privacy. Ring signatures, which enable transaction mixing, are built into the protocol design, so when attempting to locate the source of a transaction, it will appear as if a whole crowd of users took part in the exchange, making it nearly impossible to identify the true source.

“Monero (XMR) is one of the most privacy-oriented cryptocurrencies,” said Dave Jevans, CEO of CipherTrace. “Our research and development team worked for a year on developing techniques for providing financial investigators with analysis tools. There is much work still to be done, but CipherTrace is proud to announce the world’s first Monero tracing capability. We are grateful for the support of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate on this project.”

The tools CipherTrace developed within the scope of this DHS project have also laid the groundwork for future implementation of entity transactions clustering, wallet identification, exchange attribution, and other functionality that will provide law enforcement with even more tools for investigating Monero transactions and addresses.