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Arkansas Sheriff Mines Bitcoin as part of an initiative to prevent cybercrime

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The sheriff of Bentonville County, Arkansas, operates bitcoin as part of a cybercrime prevention program, according to the Northwest Gazette of Arkansas. Detectives interviewed about the initiative did not give much details about the program, but said the sheriff uses Bitcoin for undercover operations. A detective interviewed said that the department was entering the deep network to patrol its "neighborhoods" as well as its "main roads".

Sheriff Shawn Holloway said at a recent conference that he uses Bitcoin to fight cybercrimes that are a growing problem.

Nathan Smith, the county attorney who was consulted during the development of the program, said the program will likely be improved. Smith said that efforts to fight online crime have a direct impact on the safety of the community.

Mining Benefits

Detectives undermine Bitcoin instead of buying it in order to know the bitcoin that they use has not already been used for illegal purchases. Mining also allows them to get bitcoin without spending taxpayer funds. In addition, by exploiting the mines, they can get bitcoin in a way that does not risk arousing the suspicions of other users.

The department uses a computer stored in a data center for mining, Olin Rankin said. He said the increase in electricity costs from mining would be minor compared to the overall operating cost of the facility. He said that the cost of electricity for mining would be equivalent to plugging in another PC.

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The division is part of a mining pool that combines different resources of miners to share their processing power over the network.

Rankin said that it is necessary for law enforcement to change its methods when criminals change theirs.

Zach Steelman, assistant professor of information systems at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, said that mining is a better way to get in on the market bitcoins without launching red flags.

David Undiano, another detective, said that the division had not spent any bitcoin accumulated so far. He said the division needed to finish gathering data and consulting experts and officials to determine how much money they needed.

Steelman said that the police were trying to find the "crumbs" that people using Bitcoin had left on the Internet.

Questions asked

A former law enforcement officer who plans to challenge Holloway in 2018 has raised concerns about the bitcoin initiative.

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The challenger, Glen Latham, said the mining equipment uses a lot of power at the expense of the taxpayer. He said that if the department can prove that the effort is profitable, it does not matter, but taxpayers have the right to know how their funds are used.

Latham said the sheriff should go after the "hanging down fruit" on the surface canvas instead of entering an area that will not lead to much, if any, arrest.

Potential problems of hacking and confidentiality were raised. The cybercrimes division does not think it will be a problem.

Also read: The dark web is more like a set of dark silos

The Deep Web Defies the Application of the Law

The "deep" web, a hub for illegal transactions, is not accessible using traditional search engines since its content is not indexed. A report from the Congressional Research Service in May 2017 indicated that the information is not static or linked to other deep web pages.

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The deep network, also known as the "dark cloth", is used for legitimate purposes in addition to concealing criminal activities, notes the research report.

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The research report also noted that a free software called Tor allows anonymous communication. Tor estimated that 1.5% of its users visit hidden pages.

Image from Shutterstock.

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