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UK Government Report: Digital Currencies Threaten Cybercrime

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A new UK government report reveals that cybercriminals pose a threat to the cybercrime.

The report, National Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risks 2017, highlights the concerns of governments about the role that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin play in cybercrime.

The report refers to a 2015 NRA, which estimated that the risk of digital currencies related to money laundering and terrorist financing was low. He adds:

However, the link between digital currencies and cybercrime
means that this risk is likely to increase.

In 2015, the vulnerabilities identified have largely focused on the cross-border exposure and anonymity of cryptocurrencies, in addition to the lack of a regulated environment. This latest report concludes that the use of digital currencies for money laundering activities appears to be relatively weak. Evidence suggests that they are used to whiten small amounts at a high volume rather than in large quantities.

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When it comes to a cybercrime perspective, the threat posed by cryptocurrencies is higher. According to the report, this is evident in three areas:

  • First, digital currencies directly facilitate payments to victims of cybercriminals, such as malware attacks, ransomware and cybercrimes – as extortion.
  • Secondly, digital currencies promote the growth of cybercrime as a service. They become the main payment method for payments between criminals and for the purchase of illegal tools and services online.
  • Third, digital currencies play a critical role in laundering the proceeds of cybercrime, directly facilitating cybercrime financial flows.
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According to reports of suspicious activity (DAR) submitted, between May 2016 and July 2017, there were 1,584 reports referring to cryptocurrencies. The number is increasing every month.

He adds that risks are likely to grow as digital currencies become a viable and popular payment method.

As the number of companies accepting payments in digital currency increases, criminals increasingly use currencies to launder funds without the need to cash in foreign currencies non-digital or "fiat"

The report found that the use of cryptocurrency for terrorist purposes is not expected to increase significantly over the next five years.

Image from Shutterstock.

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