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Europol Investigates Cryptocurrencies For Cybercrime Threat Assessment




Europol conducted an investigation into the role that cryptocurrency plays in cybercrime.

On October 3, 2017, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) issued a report titled Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment that focused, in part, on the growing role certain cryptocurrencies play in cybercrime.

The report touched on several topics including malware, exploitation of minors, payment fraud, online criminal markets, cyberterrorism, and the geographic distribution of cybercrime. Its analysis indicates that cybercriminals continue to exploit cryptocurrencies, namely bitcoin, as the method of choice for criminal markets as well as cyber-extortion. It also said that Ether, Monero, and Zcash are gaining popularity in the digital black market.

Today, cyberattacks have become prevalent. As per the report, software-based attacks such as WannaCry have "widened the range of potential malware victims, impacting victims indiscriminately across multiple industries in both private and public sectors, and highlighting how connectivity and poor digital hygiene and security practices can allow such a threat to quickly spread and expand the attack vector." Given a growing network of interoperable digital gadgets, the report also suggests that IoT devices may be capable of enabling massive DDoS attacks, citing the Mirai malware incident.

Europol investigated the viability of Ethereum-based executable digital code contracts to become a "Crime-as-a-Service" business model in a report made last year. However, the agency said it has yet to see this manifest, although it said that "at least one Darknet market has begun accepting Ethereum for payments and purchases." In addition, Europol asserts an Ethereum-based decentralized Darknet marketplace is in development. While, as of yet, the volume of trading on a decentralized Darknet market has been low, Europol said it remains to be seen how illicit trade will be attracted to the market since the integration of experimental Tor code in February of 2017.

In July of 2017, Darknet marketplace AlphaBay, which had accepted bitcoin, Monero, and Ether, was shut down by Europol.

The agency will continue to coordinate across departments in an endeavor to effectively respond to cybercrime, according to Europol’s Executive Director Rob Wainwright, who described the effort:

"Law enforcement continues to demonstrate that a coordinated, intelligence-led and adaptive approach by competent authorities, involving multiple sectors and partners can result in significant success in preventing cybercrime and mitigating its impact."

Jeremy Nation

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine.

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