Europol Report Warns Against Growing Criminal Abuse of Cryptocurrencies

  • A Europol report has recently warned against crypto-related threats like ransomware and cryptojacking.
  • The report also notes privacy coins may soon be a preferred choice for criminals.

Europol has recently warned against cryptocurrency-related threats like hacks and cryptocurrency mining malware, and against the use of privacy coins to launder money or finance terrorism.

In its “Internet Organized Crime Assessment 2018 (IOCTA) report, the EU-focused law enforcement agency warned those in the cryptocurrency space they’re becoming a target for cybercriminals, over the semi-anonymous nature of most cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Per Europol, cryptocurrencies are a preferred payment method for criminals. The report reads:

They remain the primary payment mechanism for the payment of criminal services, a plethora of goods on Darknet markets and for extortion demands, whether as a result of ransomware, DDoS attacks, or other methods.

It further notes that criminals have been hitting those in the cryptocurrency space through well-known hacking methods, which include phishing. Cryptojacking, in which hackers use code to use a victim’s CPU resources to mine crypto, has been on the rise as the report claims it’s an additional revenue system for criminals.

As CryptoGlobe covered McAfee Labs, in its latest quarterly “Threat Report,” revealed it found the number of cryptojacking cases surged by 629% in the first quarter of this year. A recent study even found 59% of businesses in the UK suffered a crypto mining attack at some point.

This type of attacks is expected to become a “regular, low-risk revenue stream for criminals.” Privacy coins like Monero (XMR) – usually mined in cryptojacking cases – and Zcash (ZEC) are also expected to grow in popularity as an “increase in extortion demands and ransomware in these currencies” is expected.

Notably, Europol’s report restates that terrorist groups have tried to raise funds via cryptocurrencies, but failed to do so at any meaningful level. As CryptoGlobe reported, the director of analysis for the Foundation For Defense of Democracies Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance Yaya Fanusie told the US Congress the same thing.

While cash is still king among terrorist organizations, the law enforcement agency revealed ISIS has purchased internet domains using Zcash, but hasn’t financed any attacks on European soil using cryptos. In the report the agency tells investigators to “built trust relationships with any cryptocurrency related businesses operating in their jurisdictions,” but it also warns against decentralized exchanges.

Money launderers have evolved to use cryptocurrencies in their operations and are increasingly facilitated by new developments such as decentralised exchanges which allow exchanges without any Know Your Customer requirements. It is likely that high-privacy cryptocurrencies will make the current mixing services and tumblers obsolete.

These are set to see a huge spike in liquidity as ETHfinex has launched ‘ETHfinex Trustless’, a decentralized exchange that doesn’t require KYC/AML checks and that is set to share its order books with Bitfinex, a leading crypto exchange.