Europol’s officials are expressing concern that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have started to play a growing role in illegal activities.
This concern was voiced by Europol officials after law enforcement agencies from countries like Bosnia, Germany, United Kingdom, Austria, and Herzegovina met last December.
They had gathered to plan and implement ideas to thwart the activities of DD4BC (Distributed Denial of Service for Bitcoin), a group of cybercriminals.
Illegal Activities of DD4BC
DD4BC, the cybercriminals behind the DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, operate by extorting money (through Bitcoins) by hijacking the laptops of unsuspecting victims.
In addition to targets from the online gambling sites, they also picked targets from high-profile corporate organizations, and financial and entertainment sectors.
Wil Van Gemert (Deputy Director [Operations], Europol) detailed the measures taken by such gangs in order to create new threats which law enforcement agencies had to deal with.
They employed aggressive methods to silence their victims and threatened them with reputation damage and public exposure of sensitive details of the organization.
Europol officials consider that the activities of gangs such as DD4BC have become more established in the recent past and believe that many similar cases go unreported.
The Bitcoin Role
That the cybercriminal gang used the Bitcoin as the mode of payment for the money that was extorted from the victims played a decisive role in pinning down the perpetrators of the crime.
Operation Pleiades, which was jointly organized by law enforcement agencies of countries such as Japan, Romania, France, Australia, Interpol, and others, resulted in the arrest of a member of the DD4BC and capture of another suspect.
Valuable pieces of evidence were gathered following extensive property searches conducted by the Europol Cybercrime Center and the Joint Cybercrime taskforce.
A mobile office and top-rated forensic tools were employed for the purpose.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies use a pseudonymous method of payment. This has been cited as the main reason for the increasing popularity of Bitcoin use among cybercriminals.
Many cases of Bitcoin extortion have come to light in the past years.
Recently, businesses in the financial, gambling and entertainment industries that paid up the Bitcoin ransom were seen as more vulnerable and in many cases were retargeted for higher amounts.
Europol officials opined that without stringent reporting mechanisms, most of the Bitcoin extortion crimes go unnoticed and law enforcement agencies are losing out on giving protection to the victims of these attacks.
The importance of timely sharing of information between the law enforcement agencies was also emphasized.
Origin of Bitcoin
Bitcoin was created by a new-age programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto (his real identity has still not been established) in the year 2009.
The Bitcoin digital currency is considered to be a strong one purportedly because of its low supply, high divisibility (of up to 8 decimal places), and convenience of use, no possibility of counterfeits, and its durability. Its exchange rate has steadily increased to $393.89 as of today.
It is unattached to any bank and can be acquired by “purchase” (from Bitcoin exchanges) or through “mining” (successfully completing a series of complex computer tasks).