ISIS Affiliated Website Akhbar al-Muslimin Takes Bitcoin Donations to Make Use of BTC Anonymity
While crypto has done a lot of good in the world by allowing people to send money at record speeds and removing the monopoly held by large Institutions, there has been a significant number of downsides to the use of the currencies.
One of these is its use for Crime. Cryptocurrencies, particularly privacy coins, have been used by a number of criminal organizations to carry out their activities. The primary reason for this is that cryptocurrencies, by their nature, are decentralized and thus, it is harder to track down the perpetrators of crypto-related crimes. Monero, for example, has become popular among kidnappers and blackmailers because it is largely untraceable.
ISIS and Bitcoin
Now, it seems ISIS is taking a similar route as recent events suggest that the terrorist organization has taken a liking to bitcoin. On January 15, 2019, the Akhbar al-Muslimin website formally solicited for bitcoin donations on their site, leaving a link to a wallet address. According to them, these donations will help in the maintenance of the site. Law enforcement believes, however, that the funds will be used to sponsor terrorist activities.
The Meir Amit Intelligence & Information Center believes that ISIS has lost all of its assets and is now turning to crypto as a secure means of raising funds from supporters around the world.
Akhbar al-Muslimin had a similar call for contributions in November 2017 but that was shut down by law enforcement.
The current link being put up redirects the user to VirWoX (the Virtual World Exchange), an Austrian Crypto exchange Platform recognized by the government.
In 2014, a blog post from ISIS to its supporters made a case for the use of cryptocurrency as a means of supporting their activities and in 2017, Europol (the EU law enforcement agency) noted that Zcash and Bitcoin were the most popular forms of donation for ISIS but that it was mainly used to purchase domain names and not directly for terrorist activities.
A Difficult Place
The use of bitcoin by criminals and terrorists put law enforcement in a difficult situation. It is harder to prosecute and even track where these funds are coming from and going to and because Bitcoin is decentralized, there is no higher power to report to.
Because of this tricky situation, some countries like China have taken to banning the cause of cryptocurrency altogether. Other countries have resorted to creating very strict rules around the use of crypto.
On top of this, law enforcement has become better at prosecuting crimes related to cryptocurrencies such as SIM swapping and malware.