October 2, 2019
As terror organizations are constantly looking for new ways to raise and transfer funds without being tracked, cryptocurrencies are becoming an alternative method for terrorists across the globe to fund their activities away from the eyes of authorities.
Though western governments and institutions have cracked down on money laundering, significantly reducing the ability of terror groups to use more formal banking services to raise and transfer funds, terror groups have understood the anonymity afforded by blockchain technology as opposed to the more traditional options.
On of the first documented cases of terror groups using Bitcoin was a campaign organized by the Ibn Taymiyya Media Center (ITMC) in the blockaded Gaza Strip which has been raising funds since 2015. But ITMC’s efforts failed, providing a single cryptocurrency address that allowed authorities to track where the money donated to the designated terror group was coming from.
In February, another Gaza-based terror group, the al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) began to use crypto-currencies in order to raise funds for the group blockaded in the coastal enclave. The group began a large-scale campaign on their Telegram channel and succeeded in raising about $5,000 in crypto-funds using a donation website which generated a unique bitcoin wallet for each person that visited.
The funds were essentially impossible to track and see where they were sent.
Other terror groups like the Islamic State have used cryptocurrency fundraising campaigns for specific weapons purchases and other projects.
While still not the most popular method for terror groups, various solutions have been identified as invaluable for detecting and tracking the use of cryptocurrencies such as web intelligence, automated and powerful artificial intelligence (AI)as well as machine learning technologies.
The ability of AI-driven search engines, capable of sifting through an infinite amount of critical data across all layers of the internet including open source and the dark web, optimizes investigations and provides authorities with precise intelligence much faster than ever before.
By using web intelligence tools to identify the financial infrastructure of the groups, authorities are able to intercept projects by groups and even track who sent them and from where.
Despite the evidence showing the use of cryptocurrency projects by terror groups, they have so far failed in raising any substantial amount of funds.
Terror groups are also constrained in how they spend the funds raised because of the limited ability to use such currencies in the areas where they operate, for example, there are only several locations operating cryptocurrency ATMs in the Middle East.
Similar to banks, cryptocurrencies can also be monitored by anti-money laundering authorities and are subject to regulations around the globe allowing online wallets to be frozen if they are suspect, preventing terrorists from using the funds they raised.
Nevertheless, the use of such currencies by terrorists has been identified by government authorities and organizations who track terror financing as the next frontier in the battle against money laundering.
With web intelligence capabilities providing the algorithms to identify and mitigate threats, authorities are able to remain one step ahead of terror groups who keep adapting in order to circumvent investigations.