Is the original currency of choice on the dark net becoming too popular for secrecy?
That is at least the perception now according to an unnamed U.S. homeland official in an interview with CNBC. They are moving to other currencies that are designed to be less transparent than Bitcoin.
The very nature of Bitcoin can indeed be a double edged sword. Although there are no identities on the blockchain, all transactions are by their very nature open to the public on the ledger. The official mentioned that
What the criminals are starting to see, and some of the trends we’re picking up as well, is that bitcoin also works equally just as much against you as it does for you
Using advanced tracking technology such as Chainalysis, US regulators and investigators are getting pretty efficient at keeping a tab on payments through the Bitcoin blockchain. Although they cannot easily identify who the recipients of the funds are, they can catch the bad actors when they try to cash out the coins through a legitimate exchange.
This revelation comes on the heels of recent moves by international investigators to shut down a number of dark net markets. These include Alphabay and Hansa market which transacted only in Bitcoin. Similarly, the US authorities recently shut down BTC-e and arrested its Russian founder on money laundering charges.
Although BTC-e is trying to make a comeback, it is uncertain whether users will be able to fully trust the exchange after the US authorities were able to so easily track payments and close it down.
Enter a Hackers Altcoin
Given this added scrutiny, focus has now shifted to other Altcoins which are hard built with privacy in mind. One of those is Monero which attempts to mask the wallet identity and transaction specifics of particular payments. The price has also recently hit record highs as South Korean Exchanges have started offering it.
Hackers are also turning to Bitcoin’s immediate rival Ethereum, to facilitate their nefarious business. According to reports, hackers using phishing and other 0 day attacks have managed to net themselves $225 million in ethereum so far this year. This is becoming increasingly profitable as the price of Ether has increased by over 430% this year.
Of course, the recent historic rise in the Bitcoin price is making it profitable again for a number of ransomware campaigns to consider monetising with the crypto currency.
However, when these hackers try to take their money out and convert it to Fiat money, they can be certain that the authorities will be watching. Big Brother has his eye on the blockchain as well.