According to recent reports, dark web users are dropping Bitcoin for new and emerging cryptocurrencies that are more difficult for authorities to track.
Despite it being quite tricky to trace and pin down actual criminal activities associated with digital currencies, there has been a substantial decline in the number of illegal transactions that involve Bitcoin.
What’s more, dark web users are increasingly monitoring other digital currencies such as Ethereum and Monero. What many users are learning about the reliance of Bitcoin to carry out transactions is that it’s as safe as it is risky.
Bitcoin operates on an exclusive public record known as the blockchain, where all the transactions are available online.
To get payments, one needs an address (public) but unfortunately for the users, this is how intelligence agencies can monitor how the funds are moving to addresses provided by hackers.
This way, they can arrest criminals while they’re attempting to withdraw through several more regulated platforms like banks or exchanges.
Over the last few years, there has been a splurge of new cryptocurrencies in addition to Bitcoin. These digital currencies have cropped up from the necessity for added privacy.
As opposed to Bitcoin’s now-vulnerable open transaction public record, the underlying Monero technology conceals the identities of the senders and receivers, not to mention the amount.
Given the relative stability of Ethereum and Monero over the course of last year, perhaps 2018 will see even more dark web users flocking to these alternative cryptocurrencies in the place of Bitcoin.
Just recently, CoinMarketCap’s Monero charts recorded a massive high of $400 in value, which is already a spike for the first week of 2018.
Data indicates that Ethereum (also a relatively new cryptocurrency) has become a preferred option for cybercriminals. Ethereum has gone up approximately 4,300 percent amid a flurry of Initial Coin Offerings, which brought in around $1.8 billion within the last few years.
According to 2017 data, hackers raised an approximate $225 million in Ethereum funds.
Phishing attacks, a type of messaging that lures unsuspecting individuals to disclose personal information, represents over half of recent total revenue courtesy of Ethereum cybercrimes (about $115 million).
The European Union law enforcement authority Europol has since noted that the dark web would subsequently identify alternative options to escape financial detection.
In their report, they indicate they have observed a trend where “other cryptocurrencies” like Ethereum, Zcash and Monero are continually gaining popularity in the dark web.
Online scammers and many phishing hackers are in recent times demanding ransom in the form of digital currencies such as Monero.
In one of the most recent prominent cyberattacks, a number of WordPress sites were targeted in a Monero crypto mining campaign.
According to industry experts and analysts, Monero is quickly becoming a preferred revenue source for cybercriminals.
As aforementioned, this is mainly because unlike its counterpart Bitcoin, Monero is virtually untraceable since it does not operate by using a public ledger where transactions can be accessed and consequently traced back to the involved parties.
This eradicates the chance of transaction verification for criminal activity.
Zcash is yet another alternative to consider, although it is yet to make a significant mark on the dark web as compared to Ethereum and Monero.
That said, reports still indicate that Bitcoin remains a favorite for numerous dark web users because of its more extensive use which makes it easier to convert it into standard currency devoid of any intermediary.
What’s more, the sharp recent Bitcoin gains have also not gone unnoticed. In fact, they have made Bitcoin even more lucrative for cybercriminals as witnessed by recent high-profile incidents like WannaCry.
Bitcoin simply introduced a scenario where people can easily bypass money mules. Nonetheless, while Bitcoin initially represented anonymity, recent occurrences have gone to show that it may not be that anonymous—hence the new trend.