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There is an ongoing kidnap case in Norway where the perpetrators have demanded a ransom paid in Monero of approx USD 10 millions. They have probably chosen this crypto as it is said to be very private. My question is: exactly how private is it? Will the police with the help of a crypto expert or two be able to trace such a payment? The kidnappers are communicating through a digital platform where you have to pay a certain amount to get your message through, probably the Monero block chain. The messages have been sparse and short I understand. What the family of the kidnapped women desires is of course first of all proof that she is alive and well which has not been provided. If the Monero only allows for short verbal messages, what are the other options one could use to convey proof that the woman is alive, I mean where you could send a photo or a short video. There has been a lot of bad press about cryptos, and if this case could be solved with the help of the crypto community, I see this as an excellent opportunity for good PR. Personally I'd like to help the police as I think kidnapping is a bad thing and I feel sorry for the elderly woman and her family, but for this I need some input from the community.

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  • If they get paid, they still have to convert it to fiat. Gonna need a ton of exchange accounts and trickle it out. This is the typical problem, stealing the money isn't hard, getting it is. They will get popped from bad opsec than from chasing crypto implementation flaws. – Dave Jan 26 at 20:07
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Will the police with the help of a crypto expert or two be able to trace such payment?

Short answer: No.

How private is Monero?

Bitcoin

While Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies do quite a good job with privacy they have one major "flaw" by design. All the transactions are visible in the blockchain, meaning that the wallet-address of the sender and the recepient are listed. This is called a transparent blockchain. From the transparent blockchain we can learn three things:

  • The sender
  • The recepient
  • The transacted amount

With these 3 things it's potentianally feasible to link a wallet to a real-word identity.

Monero

Monero uses three different privacy technologies: ring signatures, ring confidential transactions (RingCT), and stealth addresses. These hide the sender, the transacted amount, and the receiver in the transaction, respectively.

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If the Monero only allows for short verbal messages, what are the other options…

Bitmessage would be more convenient than the Monero blockchain for two parties to exchange secure messages without disclosing physical locations to each other. If the party that's hiding has found some method for announcing its Monero address, then it could presumably use that same method to announce its Bitmessage address.