A 200-year-old idea offers a new way to trace stolen bitcoins

Bitcoin's blockchain provides evidence of every Bitcoin transaction that's ever taken place. Many of the transactions recorded on that distributed ledger are crimes. But a group of Cambridge cybersecurity researchers argues that one can still distinguish the contraband coins from the legitimate ones. Based on a legal precedent from an 1816 British court decision, they say that the first coin that leaves a Bitcoin address should be considered the same coin as the first one that went into it, carrying with it all of that coin's criminal history. The Cambridge researchers have gone so far as to code a proof-of-concept software tool, which they plan to release later this year.