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Confiscated Crypto Funds from Terrorist Group by US Justice

Terrorists

September 28, 2020 | 

314 Views | 

JOHN K MWANIKI | 

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The United States Justice Department has seized millions in cryptocurrency. The raid saw the agency stop money funding the major terror groups. The affected groups include ISIS, Al-Qaida, and the al-Qassam Brigades. 

The collected amount was the largest ever by any department for illegal activities. The department has also received court orders to seize over 300 accounts. They also want control of their Facebook groups and websites used for fundraising. 

This is one of the worst-case scenarios of the use of digital currencies for illegal activities. This article looks into the trend of technology-enabling illegalities. It also looks into other concerns about using bitcoin and how to manage them. 

How Terrorists Use Technology for Funding 

The economy has experienced several changes in recent years. The virtual wave saw increased use of technology globally. The surge revealed several tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. The age of digital money is the next on line. It has come with increasing adoption of blockchain technology. 

While the developments are welcome, there has been a surge in illegal use. Top of them is the use of cryptocurrencies for terror funding. The terror groups have leveraged the technology to garner support and funding. Al-Qassam Brigades, for example, tweeted a call for donations. They then directed the funders to use Bitcoin due to its anonymity. 

The authorities found over 150 accounts related to the terror group fundraising efforts. Social media has billions of active users. From here, the terror groups can find public supporters for donations. 

The terror groups have also leveraged the growing eCommerce for funding. One of such schemes saw ISIS run a supposed online mask vending place. The site used the coronavirus to gain millions from those seeking the face masks online. The FBI arrested the group's facilitator, who ran the site, Murat Cakar. 

With the authorities gaining the court order to run the sites, they are likely to gain control. 

The Role of Crypto in Illegal Activities 

Virtual currency comes with security concerns, yet it is the next trade frontier. It complements the terrorist preference for technology. As the online platforms provide the necessary audience, cryptos facilitate payments.

Bitcoins come with a sophisticated transactional model. It allows the groups to provide the users untraceable accounts to send the funds. They can also embed address QR codes on posters for easy scanning. The donations have become quite challenging for the authorities to trace and intercept. 

A report by the New York Times says, while the terror groups were slow to join the crypto, they have perfected it. In one advert video, al-Qassam Brigades guide the users on how to get and send Bitcoin. 

The other reason for the increase in the use of crypto is the available market. There is no need to exchange the currency into fiat. The existing dark market facilitates more than $1 billion in annual commerce. 

The terror groups are still growing their technology to match the crypto world.

Countering the Use of Bitcoin for Terror 

The possibility of funding the terrorists using crypto is a menace. There have been talks that only a smaller percentage of the transactions fund terror. The terror groups don't need much to operate. 

The concerns on the crypto have implications for all the crypto sectors. The wallets, cryptocurrency exchanges, and other businesses using crypto are all affected. Any crypto facility that facilitates the transactions risk severe consequences. They might incur fines and penalties. 

The crypto facilitators come under intense scrutiny. They must also meet their social responsibility to the innocent. This they do by ensuring no abuse by terrorists and extremists' networks. They have to report any suspicious transactions to the authorities. 

De-Anonymization of Bitcoin and Effects on Funding Terror 

At present, Bitcoin is becoming hard to use by terrorists. Bitcoin is big on de-anonymization, making it less lucrative for the terrorists. The coin records transaction details on the blockchain for public access. The terrorists have to install safeguards for anonymity. 

The safeguards are not full-proof and are not assured of anonymity. Several regulations also help reduce the use of Bitcoin for illegal activities. Europe has an extensive guideline to protect against terrorism cryptocurrency funding. 

Bitcoin is also fast becoming mainstream. It is already traded in several traditional markets. Trading in these markets comes with increased regulations. The stakeholders and other traders always look for security. 

Bitcoin has already introduced centralized derivatives like Bitcoin futures. It also has hedge funds for institutional investors. These investors appreciate transparency more than anything else. It means Bitcoin is becoming irrelevant to the terrorist's transactions. 

While Bitcoin is moving from anonymity, the other decentralized cryptocurrencies are going for it. Most of the new generational coins are building prominence on that basis.

Private coins like Monero and Zcash are becoming more robust. These coins allow for the hiding of IP addresses and transaction details. 

Bottom Line

Cryptocurrency is one of the most revolutionary developments in recent times. It seeks to upset the fiat currency economy. It does this by eliminating the issues that come with fiat like high rate inflation.

It's been on the right path in facilitating faster cross-border transactions. It has also come under scrutiny in recent times. 

Even though terrorists took the time to start using the asset, they have learned how to make it work. They use the power of social media to attract the right crowds. These crowds then donate due to the anonymity of the crypto transactions.

The regulatory authorities on high alert to stop such illegal transactions. The seized millions meant for terrorists is the start of a more rigorous routine. The more technology advances, the more regulations improve to keep the world safe. 

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