The European crime watchdog, Europol has released its annual report on the cybercrime assessment which analyzes the internet crime landscape in Europe. The report titled “Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) 2018”, touched on the role of cryptocurrency in internet crime as well as terrorism.
Contrary to popular conception, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies did not contribute to terrorism in Europe within the period reviewed. The report read:
“Yet despite the clear potential, none of the attacks carried out on European soil appear to have been funded via cryptocurrencies.”
Similarly, a congressional hearing in the United States concluded that terrorists weren’t getting their funding in cryptocurrency.
Though Europol did not exempt the use of cryptocurrency from crime entirely, it indicated that conventional banking and means of transactions rather than cryptos were used to fund terrorism in the region. The watchdog had in April busted a drug trafficking ring which sought to launder money using bitcoin.
Europol explained that “the use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions – their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.”
The report did point out that cryptocurrency was being used in perpetuating and monetizing cybercrime.
Bitcoin was the most commonly used cryptocurrency for internet crime while privacy coins like Zcash and Monero were tipped to become widely used in criminal circles. This was similar to its IOCTA report for 2017. Bitcoin remained the most popular in the dark web despite a reduction in its market dominance from over 80 percent then to under 50 percent for most of the period reviewed.
Europol also found that cryptos were gradually being adopted outside the internet crime space, probably due to an increase in mainstream popularity. “While the criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies remains largely within the realm of cybercrime, some Member States reported that they are increasingly encountering their use by non-cyber [organized crime groups],” the report stated.
The agency recommended better awareness, cybercrime reporting, investigations as well as collaborations to tackle cybercrime.