Cryptocurrency sleuthing firm Crystal Blockchain has introduced a free version of its transaction-tracing tool available to anyone curious about the provenance of their – or others’ – coins.
Crystal Block Explorer will be the first retail version of a professional blockchain analytics tool on the market. The tool is more limited in what it can do than Crystal Expert, the vendor’s flagship paid product.
While partly a marketing play for Crystal, the free product could be useful to ordinary users, researchers and journalists who can’t afford a subscription to software that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars annually.
In particular, users will be able to check if their crypto or a transaction of interest has ties to any known entity in the cryptocurrency market – for example, if the funds come from a certain exchange or are connected to a known fraudulent scheme. They will also see a risk score for their crypto, calculated by Crystal, indicating the chances the funds can get frozen on an exchange because of the coins’ transaction history.
“It’s not only financial institutions that want to better understand their activity related to digital assets – every cryptocurrency user wants to be able to understand more about the funds they are about to accept,” Marina Khaustova, CEO of Crystal Blockchain, told CoinDesk.
Crystal’s paid product is now used by “more than 1,900 customers, most of which are digital assets service providers, including Upbit, Coinspaid and Rain,” she said.
There is a budding industry of vendors providing anti-money laundering (AML) tools to exchanges and other crypto businesses. Such tools allow crypto firms to identify and freeze funds with suspected criminal origins, coming from hacks, exploits, scams or terrorism financing schemes.
Chainalysis, CipherTrace and Elliptic are some well-known companies in the market. In addition to serving private-sector clients, these vendors help government agencies navigate the frontier of cryptocurrency transactions.
There are also a handful of free tools like Walletexplorer and OXT that can help ordinary users draw connections between bitcoin addresses that may belong to the same entity – a challenging task when analyzing on-chain transactions. Those free tools, however, don’t always allow users to attribute a transaction to a particular known entity.
There are also paid retail products that allow users to quickly check if funds have been labeled as criminal in transaction-tracing systems (like those of Cipher Trace, Chainalysis, Crystal and Elliptic), which means that exchanges will likely freeze funds coming from such blacklisted addresses. That category includes Antinalysis and AMLbot – the latter, in turn, uses Crystal’s database.
In the case of Crystal’s new free tool, users will have limited access to the company’s proprietary data on who owns certain wallets, and they also will be able to generate charts that show the chains of connected transactions.
The free tool will let a user look up the owners of particular addresses a limited number of times per day, while the paid version doesn’t have that cap. Users of the free version also won’t be able to see attributions to high-risk entities, including darknet marketplaces, crypto mixers and scams.
The ability to check the legitimacy of counterparties is “crucially important to day-to-day use and adoption of digital assets in general,” Khaustova said.
“This equality of data readability is something we at Crystal believe should be a basic right for any digital asset user,” she said. “Transparency is a core crypto ecosystem value.”
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