Frameup: An incriminatory attack on storj: A Peer to Peer Blockchain Enabled Distributed Storage System

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Publication Date


Subject: LCSH

Computer crimes--Investigation, Computer forensics, Hashing (Computer science), Cyber forensics, Cloud computing


Computer Engineering | Computer Sciences | Electrical and Computer Engineering | Forensic Science and Technology | Information Security


In this work we present a primary account of frameup, an incriminatory attack made possible because of existing implementations in distributed peer to peer storage. The frameup attack shows that an adversary has the ability to store unencrypted data on the hard drives of people renting out their hard drive space. This is important to forensic examiners as it opens the door for possibly framing an innocent victim. Our work employs Storj as an example technology, due to its popularity and market size. Storj is a blockchain enabled system that allows people to rent out their hard drive space to other users around the world by employing a cryptocurrency token that is used to pay for the services rendered. It uses blockchain features like a transaction ledger, public/private key encryption, and cryptographic hash functions – but this work is not centered around blockchain. Our work discusses two frameup attacks, a preliminary and an optimized attack, both of which take advantage of Storj's implementation. Results illustrate that Storj allows a potential adversary to store incriminating unencrypted files, or parts of files that are viewable on people's systems when renting out their unused hard drive space. We offer potential solutions to mitigate our discovered attacks, a developed tool to review if a person has been a victim of a frameup attack, and a mechanism for showing that the files were stored on a hard drive without the renter's knowledge. Our hope is that this work will inspire future security and forensics research directions in the exploration of distributed peer to peer storage systems that embrace blockchain and cryptocurrency tokens.


This is the authors' accepted version of the article published in Digital Investigation. The version of record can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.diin.2019.02.003

Dr. Baggili was appointed to the University of New Haven's Elder Family Endowed Chair in 2015.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Publisher Citation

Zhang, X., Grannis, J., Baggili, I., & Beebe, N. L. (2019). Frameup: An incriminatory attack on storj: A peer to peer blockchain enabled distributed storage system. Digital Investigation Volume 29, June 2019, pp. 28-42. doi:10.1016/j.diin.2019.02.003

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