According to a new study conducted by a number of Texas-based universities, Bitcoin may not be the anonymous, decentralized alternative to existing banking systems that its largest proponents claim.

The research paper's focus, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, is on the digital currency's early years, when it first achieved parity with the US dollar.

Since its debut in 2009, the team of researchers has been able to infer the identities of the most active persons on the Bitcoin blockchain with near certainty

Except for a couple of well-known people who have been convicted of crypto-related crimes, such as Ross Ulbricht and Michael Mancil Brown, the article does not reveal particular identities.

According to their calculations, just 64 people mined Bitcoin between the time it was launched and the time it reached $1.

Crypto's attractiveness stems in part from the fact that it allows for a system of trade or exchange to occur without the intervention of a third party, such as a bank, governing transactions.

Bitcoin, the Internet money favoured by computer scientists, libertarians, and criminals, has been compromised.

Only three years ago, it appeared that anyone could purchase or sell anything with Bitcoin without being traced, let alone arrested if they broke the law.

Law enforcement agents were "panicking" when Bitcoin initially appeared, according to Meiklejohn. "They thought these technologies were dangerous and made it harder for them to do their job

Bitcoin has "become something of a perfect tool of state surveillance, revealing activities that many users thought were protected by pseudonymity to sophisticated state security agencies".