By FRANK BAJAK
December 5, 2022
“Tracers In The Dark” by Andy Greenberg (Doubleday)
The year was 2011. Cryptocurrency was a little-understood novelty, and Sen. Chuck Schumer called a news conference to vent outrage over a one-stop online shop for illegal drugs whose technology made sellers “virtually untraceable.”
The New York lawmaker’s description of Silk Road helped seed a persisting myth that technology reporter Andy Greenberg exhaustively dispels in “Tracers in the Dark,” that transactions of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can’t be tracked.
Greenberg sketches the evolution of a wholly new discipline in the surprisingly lively real-life police procedural, following law officers and programmers who invent and deploy cryptocurrency-tracking tools to catch a new breed of criminal. They take down Silk Road and other “dark web” markets and merchants, finger crypto money launderers and snare the sysadmin and users of Welcome to Video, a major South-Korea-based distributor of child sexual abuse material.
Best of the action are two takedown dramas. A young Quebecois behind the AlphaBay dark web market, Alexandre Cazes, lives large in Thailand, rocketing around in a Lamborghini, running up $12,000 restaurant bills and boasting of adulterous sexploits online. The other takedown is of a DEA agent and a Secret Service agent who illegally enriched themselves off Silk Road while investigating it – each wholly on their own.