October 6, 2014
Suspicions have arisen that Bitcoin is being used as currency to fund the terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. Bitcoin is a type of cyber currency that allows individuals to make online transactions between each other without the necessity of a central bank. According to recent reports, ISIS is using this payment system so that jihadists can receive funding from across the world.
It was a blog entry that first alerted investigators to the potential link between jihadist funding and Bitcoins. The blog post was titled ‘Bitcoin and the Charity of Violent Physical Struggle’ and was written by someone claiming to have connections with ISIS. The contents of the post outline the possibility that Bitcoins ideally fit the needs of the jihadi as they must use alternatives to the western financial system. The author goes on to suggest that it is also a great method of tax evasion for terrorists.
Bitcoin is also thought to be the perfect way for ISIS to get money from supporters in the West because the transactions are difficult to trace. If they transferred money using regular banks, suspicions would be raised immediately. Anti-terrorist financial authorities would find it extremely difficult to prevent these transactions from happening, especially if sites such as DarkWallet are used. The anonymity of using Bitcoin is a major concern.
This is not the first time such concerns have been raised. Law enforcement agencies across the globe have previously raised concern about the ways cyber currency can be used for black market transactions, such as buying illegal weapons. As a result, several restrictions on the use of digital currency have been put in place in an attempt to make transactions more difficult for those with terrorist intent.
A former investigation conducted by The Department of Treasury in March 2014 found no evidence that Bitcoins were being used in transactions involving known terrorist groups. However, they acknowledged the fact that there is a possibility that digital currency could potentially be used for harm.
The claims made in the blog post are now being investigated by a number of agencies, including the US Defense Department. A division of the Pentagon called the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office is leading the current investigation. While looking into the possible use of Bitcoin, they are also investigating the use of other technological devices to aid terrorist activity. These include the use of social media, mobile applications and smartphones.
The main focus is trying to get a clear understanding of the different ways these can be used and how much of a security threat this poses. To build more knowledge, vendors were asked to supply information in an open call from a counter-terrorism program. The deadline for submissions has now passed as the Department of Defense continues with its investigations.
However, there are others who argue that the link between Bitcoin and terrorism at the same time as the government is trying to eradicate the cyber currency is too much of a coincidence. They claim that linking terrorism to the use of virtual currency is the perfect way to end its use. This is something that the government has wanted for some time becauss virtual currency is seen as a threat to the currency system and banking authorities.
Anti-terrorist organizations and the public alike can only hope these investigations uncover the secrets of the terrorists financial activity so that they can be prevented from receiving funding. This is just one step closer to putting a stop to their activities and ending their reign of fear. The impact this will have on the use of virtual currency is yet to be seen.
Written by Jason Edelman of Fueled. Fueled.com is an award-winning mobile app design and development house based in New York, Chicago and London. At Fueled, we don't just build apps; with teams of designers, developers and strategists, we create visually stunning products that redefine the technical boundaries of today's mobile development standards. We've built award-winning iPhone, iPad and Android apps used by millions of people for clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to up and coming startups including Barney's, Coca Cola, UrbanDaddy, JackThreads and MTV. We hold ourselves to the highest standard of usability, stability and design in every project that we touch.