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Cryptocurrencies

UK Treasury: digital currencies to influence money laundering and cybercrime

Friday 27 October 2017 | 10:34 AM CET

A new policy document has been released by the UK government’s economic and finance ministry, stating that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin pose “low risk” for terrorist financing.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has assessed the risk of digital currency use for money laundering to be relatively low; although NCA deems it likely that digital currencies are being used to launder low amounts at high volume, there is little evidence of them being used to launder large amounts of money.

By contrast, from a cybercrime perspective, the threat posed by digital currencies is higher, owing to their role in directly enabling cyber-dependent crime. This is evident in three areas: firstly, digital currencies directly facilitate victim payments to cyber criminals. This includes malware attacks such as ransomware, and cybercrimes-as-an-extortion, in which victim ransom payments are predominantly requested to be paid in Bitcoin.

Secondly, digital currencies could support the growth of cybercrime-as-a-service. They constitute the primary method of payment for criminal-to-criminal payments and for the purchase of illicit tools or services sold online in the cybercriminal marketplace. The ease with which such tools can be bought through digital currencies lowers the barrier to entry for low-sophistication cyber criminals, directly contributing to the growth of cyber-crime-as-a-service. 

Thirdly, digital currencies play a vital role in laundering the proceeds of cyberdependent crime, directly facilitating cybercriminal financial flows.

The paper further cited the peer-to-peer lending industry, which it said has the potential to be used as a “terrorist financing tool” though no incidences have been observed in the UK to date, according to CoinDesk.

The full “National Risk Assessment 2017” report can be found here.

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