Meet the Israeli start-up that seeks to quash terrorist diamond smuggling

6 Degrees uses laser-inscribing machinery to invisibly encrypt an ID on diamonds to prevent trafficking.

Diamond (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Diamond (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
If you’re a terrorist and you want to transfer money under-the-table across borders, what are your options?
Twenty years ago, you could get on a plane with a suitcase full of money, fly to another country and nobody would know.
Today, customs would likely catch you, as their monitoring is much better. They’d seize you and your money – even if you didn’t declare your money and valuables upon arrival.
“The banks are monitored, assets are monitored – everything is monitored but diamonds,” says inventor and co-founder of 6 Degrees, Roy Cohen. “Diamonds are not declared anywhere, they have no ID number, nobody can track them.”
6 Degrees has created a device that can inscribe diamonds with an invisible bar code, creating a way to track every diamond worldwide and cut down on billions of dollars worth of terrorist and criminal trafficking in precious stones.
“It’s one of the simplest methods [to traffic]; convert cash to diamonds, affix them to jewelry, fly to another country, sell the diamonds, get your money back,” Cohen said. “That’s why drugs, weapons [and] human trafficking can be run and can be paid [for] without anything but diamonds. Because if a terrorist organization pays in diamonds and you cut off the source of payment, you blockade its funding source.”
The company uses laser-inscribing machinery to invisibly encrypt an ID on the girdle – the widest part – of the diamond.
In terms of privacy concerns – because most countries do not want to release data about their citizens and the types of diamonds they own – the ID system doesn’t simply issue a serial number on each diamond. Rather, the data is partially encapsulated inside the diamond, and the other part of the identification – a cryptographic key – is encrypted within the blockchain technology.
A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.
“Even if you hack a blockchain, you will never find the owners’ valuable data that you can harm the diamond owners,” Cohen said. “In the blockchain, there are millions and millions of cryptographic keys and each and every one of them belongs to a unique diamond.”
The emerging blockchain technology offers total transparency and a fixed audit trail of every transaction conducted across thousands of computers in a network. It acts as a distributed ledger, offering a way to authenticate, modify and instantaneously transfer information, while being virtually impossible to hack.
Using a magnification glass mounted on top of a Samsung phone, Cohen shows how his invention uses the phone’s camera to magnify the diamond. The device mounts the diamond under the lens to show a bar code.
Using a patented cryptographic algorithm, 6 Degrees is now capable of collecting unique markers from a diamond to encrypt the details and compress them.
Each stone and diamond can possess a unique ID, allowing a diamond dealer or customs inspector to simply read it and know that the diamond has been legitimately paid for.
For now, 6 Degrees needs the cooperation of sovereign governments, law enforcement personnel and diamond brokers to mandate the use of a tracker and bar the import and export of unmarked diamonds.
In order to launch, the company plans to provide the diamond reader for free use by the government. But inscribing the diamonds with a bar code will cost money.
The inscription process also offers a foolproof way of guaranteeing that lent diamonds are the same ones returned, guaranteeing counterfeit protection.
“For diamond dealers, we provide for the first time an anti-swapping concept,” Cohen added. “I know what I gave you is what I got back. Today, [without this technology], you can swap the diamond with something else.”
The device has been patented in the US and Israel, among other countries, and the company is in talks with large corporations in India and China.
6 Degrees was founded in 2006, and is both developing and distributing the product. Cohen’s firm is currently undergoing a seed-funding round for $6 million.