Terrorist organizations have come to rely on internet terrorist financing to raise fund for their activities. However, even this high-risk maneuver is an inferior form of funding for militants.
Bitcoin, according to mainstream media, has become a significant conduit for terrorist. Why wouldn’t it be? Bitcoin has a broad reach, timely efficiency, and a degree of anonymity for both parties to a transaction. Regardless of the proportion of illicit purchases made in BTC, it is clear that the use of distributed ledger technology is a lack of innovation in criminal organisations.
Cold hard cash is still king!
Crypto isn’t criminal money, the dollar is. Cash is as anonymous as funding terrorism can get. Where would Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi purchase goods with BTC in the part of the world with unreliable technology infrastructure?
Despite this, several terrorist organizations still push for crypto-donations. The present argument predominately points to the crowd-sourcing and fundraising through launching fraudulent ICO’s. Such activities are primarily anecdotal in nature for Al-Qaida, the Islamic State, Hamas, Lashkar-I-Tayyiba and Hizbollah. All have tried multiple times to raise funds via cryptocurrency, but failed miserably.
The most concrete evidence describes the use of propaganda arms of some designated terrorist groups appealing for Bitcoin donations as part of regular funding drive on social media platform and the Dark Web, including the publication of an instruction manual for using Bitcoins by an ISIS sympathizer. Well, the government too has its manual for counter-terrorism.
Blockchain technology which is at the underlying technology used in virtual currencies is an open, distributed ledger. To counter the potential for terrorist crypto financing drives, U.S. government agencies tasked with investigating terrorist funding have become more proficient in analyzing blockchain transactions to identify of interest.
Just recently, a blockchain analyst discovered that the Palestinian military-political group Hamas had been using the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange.
So, just how easy is it to tap into this criminal error?
Bitcoin is undoubtedly not as anonymous as much as it is perceived. The blockchain technology serves as a publicly accessible distributed ledger of all transactions on the network. This means that anyone can trace the digital footprints of an anonymous transaction provided they have sufficient computer literacy.
The Feds are watching!
The government agencies from around the world are also pushing for better regulation of virtual currencies to aid counter-terrorism, by monitoring the network of vendors that accept virtual currencies.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted research on the link between bitcoin and terrorism due to the anonymity offered when virtual currencies provide terrorists with a certain level of privacy. In the U.K., Her Majesty’s Treasury is also working in a framework for regulating virtual currencies by compelling digital currency exchange users to disclose their identities.
Terrorist organizations may not be using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on any significant scale now. However, we can’t deny that there is potential for such. Hence, as existing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing frameworks expand, it is essential to keep this possibility in mind.