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Crime-Terror and Use of Cryptocurrencies

October 18, 2018

What smells like nothing, sounds like gibberish, but doesn’t look a thing like any ordinary currency used to pay for goods, bills, housing and all of our daily expenses? Cryptocurrencies, and they’ve taking the world by storm since Bitcoin’s inception in 2009. While crypto has become a more mainstream payment method in various parts of the world, particularly with Bitcoin’s value surge in the first quarter of 2018, darker purposes of its use still dominate in the deep and dark layers of the web. The relationship between cryptocurrency and terrorism is growing.

Cryptocurrency and Terrorism

The repercussions of fake news can be severe and can endanger the lives of individuals and society at large. Whether used to leverage political campaigns, the dark web, (the internet’s underworld that’s crowded with marketplaces of illegal goods, weaponry, and drugs amongst other heinous criminal activities), is also a hub for terrorist dealings. These activities include the spread of terror groups propaganda, their financial transactions and actual terror financing. Because websites are developed and taken down within minutes or even seconds on the dark web, tracing terrorists’ transactions and activities in this realm of the internet is complex, and even more complicated with cryptocurrency’s intervention. With encrypted sites developed on the dark web hourly, transactions are often opened and closed with cryptocurrencies and at an unimaginable speed. Sites disappear, traceability dissipates, and intelligence agencies and their analysts are left to scrape up bits of clues and leads that can help close critical investigations. That is, if they’re not utilizing innovative technology and solutions to extract data from the web’s various layers.

Terrorists Leverage Cryptocurrency for Illegal Activities

Terrorists and terror organization’s leaders, actors, affiliates, and even lone wolves frequently use cryptocurrency as tool to finance activities and get paid. This exchange further complicates the traceability of these transactions, with digital coins’ encryption and the use of smart contracts masking their traceability that much more. With the dark web’s intense dynamic, mankind is posed with the challenge to either manually break down the traces of clues terrorists just barely leave behind, or to employ intelligent solutions that can provide key leads in investigative efforts.

The corrupt use of cryptocurrency by terrorist organizations and their cooperatives grows daily. Digital coins’ innovative intentions are contorted and used for nefarious activities, like ransom payments to terror groups to release kidnapped individuals. This only touches the tip of the iceberg. Terror groups are growing and being financed readily and easily with cryptocurrency.  Extremist groups target lone wolves that are tech savvy and adept with dark web technology to conspire with them, paying them in Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. Everything from cyber attacks, data breaches, encrypted communication to designate location, time and conspirers of terror acts, along with the spread of instructions for committing acts of terror are funded by cryptocurrency – and this phenomenon is spreading like wildfire.

While global intelligence agencies work to protect national security and mitigate risk, the prevailing challenge is to detect this illegal activity on the dark web before the next terror attack. With terror communication more commonly and deeply rooted in encrypted venues like the dark web, or mobile apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, analysts are facing new world problems that go beyond deterring terror in the real world. They are now actively deterring terror online and constantly coping with the challenge of preventing the financing of terror with cryptocurrencies through various platforms and mobile.

Using AI-Powered Solutions to Detect Illicit Activities Online

The answer to detecting and deterring real world and online terror: AI-powered OSINT technology. With disruptive solutions that are truly game-changers in the detection of illicit activities like terrorism, analysts worldwide can transform collected data into measurable insights. Solutions that integrate leading forms of artificial intelligence empower national security agencies to pinpoint initiators of terrorist communication, along with detecting individuals who comply, aid and fund terror using cryptocurrency.

And as cryptocurrency’s popularity grows, so too will the development of terrorist’s ploys to use digital coins as a means to fund their activities. The trend of using crypto for terror financing evolves every second, and so too will the development of technologies that advance the work of justice keepers like intelligence analysts and their governing agencies globally. With data volumes reaching record highs in today’s ever-changing online world and all of its layers, surface, deep and dark, there has never been a more relevant time to utilize artificial intelligence powered WEBINT solutions to extract intelligent insights. With the recent spike in terror-based cybercrime, data breaches, and the persistence of terror communication through encrypted channels, intelligence agencies’ need for smart software is real, as it becomes an increasingly valuable asset and tool for the protection of society.

Stephen Lerner

Stephen is an intelligence team leader at Cobwebs Technologies. He trains clients around the world on the use of Cobweb’s proprietary open-source intelligence platforms, and on the field of OSINT and WEBINT in general. In particular, he enjoys researching the psychology of intelligence analysis.



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