Law enforcement speculates that ISIS is already using Bitcoin

Pierluigi Paganini February 16, 2015

Law enforcement investigating on terrorism and speculate that terrorists including ISIS members already use Bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

The ISIS continues to threaten the world, the group is growing in popularity and its operations are increasingly bloody. ISIS has an efficient organizational capability, its strategy of terror is allowing to broaden its reach, and news of the last hours the intensification of its operations in Lybia.

Governments worldwide are trying to isolate the terrorists by fighting its online propaganda and trying to identify and block cash flow that the ISIS uses to finance local cells in the Europe and US.

Unfortunately, there are numerous ways to finance ISIS members worldwide, the terrorists are looking with increasing attention virtual currencies that allow them to easily move money across countries without being tracked. At a recent Foreign Affairs Forum on Cryptocurrency Policy, government officials and Bitcoin entrepreneurs discussed about the future of the cryptocurrency. Law enforcement fear possible abuses of the popular cryptocurrency, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, head of theUS Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is charged with fighting money laundering and terrorist finance, explained that virtual currency scheme could facilitate bad actors, including terrorists.

“What keeps me up at night when I am thinking about digital currency…the real threats out there, these days we’re thinking a lot about ISIL,” Calvery declared. “How they’re moving their money, and how potential US-based individuals are becoming foreign fighters: Are they moving their money, can we identify them from the movement of their money? What does it mean if they start moving their money through bitcoin? We’ve started to see some public articles suggesting that has occurred.”

Intelligence agencies and security experts are aware that alleged members of terrorist groups, including the ISIS, are exploring different opportunities to transfer money to militants operating in Western countries. A continuous flow of a small amount of money could be instantaneously transferred to numerous accounts used by ISIS members worldwide. Micropayments could exploit several channels, including systems like PayPal or virtual currencies like the Bitcoin.

Last summer Sky News reported that a pro-ISIS blog explained that donations supporting “violent physical struggle” would be “untrackable” by Western governments if made through the Bitcoin virtual currency scheme.

“In a post called “Bitcoin and the Charity of Violent Physical Struggle”, the author argues such donations would be “untrackable” by Western governments.” reads the post. “According to the post: “This allows our brothers stuck outside of the ardh Dawlatul-Islam to avoid government taxes along with secretly fund the mujahideen with no legal danger upon them.””This system has the potential to revive the lost sunnah of donating to the mujahideen, it is simple, easy, and we ask Allah to hasten it’s usage for us.”

Be aware, Bitcoin is not the evil, it’s just an instrument in the hand of the terrorists, exactly like the Internet. Currently a significant part of the ISIS’s fundraising relies cash from hostage ransoms and illegal oil sales, as reported by Anyway the possibility to move money without being tracked or arouse suspicion is fueling the discussion about the adoption of virtual currency among members of terrorist groups.

bitcoin isis 2

Calvery is inviting bitcoin entrepreneurs participating in the forum to evaluate the risks related to possible misused of virtual currencies.

“If you want to be a part of the US financial system, if you want to be part of the global financial system, that’s no small thing,” Calvery said. “When you start talking about global point-to-point transactions and pseudonymity and instantaneous movement of value over borders, that has real risks associated with it, too.” “When I put my financial intelligence unit hat on and we’re trying to trace funds of criminal and other illicit actors, the reporting that we’re getting from some of the bitcoin exchangers is quite good,” Calvery said. “They use that technology mind to provide some really good reporting and do work that is incredibly helpful for law enforcement and FinCEN in terms of trying to trace money.”

Washington lawyer Carol Van Cleef, who represents financial services firms on enforcement matters, highlighted that “the first adopters of new payments systems, without a doubt, are the criminals,” explaining how criminal crews are advantaged by the new virtual currencies.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Bitcoin, ISIS)

you might also like

leave a comment