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Bitcoin is establishing itself as the single currency of cyber criminals in the EU.

Europol published an online organized crime assessment for 2015. The cross-border European police authority reports on 76 pages on developments and challenges in cybercrime and outlines proposals for action to counteract it. Bitcoin is also an issue.

Internet crime is one of the growth sectors of the 21st century. From blackmail to data theft, from DdoS attacks to credit card fraud and from child pornography to drug trafficking – crime is flourishing and thriving on the Internet.

Europol’s new report on organized crime on the Internet is changing Online crime firm. The trend is towards more aggressiveness that targets people directly by increasingly blackmailing them. About the sexual, about DdoS, about viruses that encrypt your hard drive. While the typical network criminals used to be geeks, this trend towards aggressiveness bears the signature of organized crime, which rents the IT services of hackers. You can follow the latest trends in online crime here https://cryptoine.com/ethereum-ico/ .

Network criminals are an enormous challenge for the police. The use of encryption has now become the standard among crooks, who often operate from areas to which Europol has no access. Even cybercriminals with rudimentary security measures pose great difficulties for investigators.While one’s own defense of digital security and privacy remains almost the only thing that protects against cybercrime, Europol has noticed a lack of digital hygiene among citizens and companies, which opens the door to criminals.

Beside the encryption of messages and the use of TOR, the Bitcoin has meanwhile become one of the most powerful instruments used by online criminals to evade access by the authorities. “Bitcoin is establishing itself as the single currency of cyber criminals in the EU. Bitcoin is no longer only used on darknet marketplaces, but is increasingly being accepted by other types of cyber crimes. ”In online payment transactions among criminals, 40 percent of Bitcoin is used, while PayPal is used by around 25 percent. Bitcoin has also become by far the most important means of payment for extortionate services such as ransomware. Bitcoin, on the other hand, hardly plays a role in other internet crimes and money laundering.

Operation Onymous and Exit Scams

Europol’s fight against darknet markets illustrates the problems investigators have when cyber criminals use TOR and Bitcoin. The report said last year was turbulent for the darknet markets. With Operation Onymous, the investigators’ actions against the underground marketplaces have reached a temporary high point: “In November 2014, 21 countries jointly started Operation Onymous, in which 619 .onion domains were blocked and Bitcoins worth 900,000 euros were confiscated, alongside Cash, drugs, gold and silver. 33 high-level marketplaces and forums were taken offline and 17 individuals arrested. It is estimated that the blocked sites had a 37 percent market share on the darknet. ”

Potential security gaps in Tor and the success of Operation Onymous have led to uncertainty in the darknet markets. However, the sellers and buyers quickly migrated to the remaining Agora and Evolution marketplaces and numerous new marketplaces filled the vacuum. In March 2015, Evolution closed in an exit scam and took customer Bitcoins worth more than 11 million euros. Such exit scams, writes Europol, create additional uncertainty in the markets, which the investigators cannot hope to reach themselves. After Evolution’s Exit Scam, marketplaces like Agora, Abraxas, Alphabay, Black Bank and Middle Earth have taken the lead.In addition to security protocols that are intended to prevent future discoveries such as those caused by Operation Onymous, these marketplaces have also set up measures such as Multi-Sig to make an exit scam impossible.

Europol is convinced that both Operation Onymous and the increasing number of exit scams have shaken trust in the underground marketplaces for a long time. “Onymous made a strong statement from law enforcement that these services are not out of their reach. Nevertheless, despite this message: the hidden marketplaces are growing, multiplying and developing. “

Europol fears that the underground marketplaces will switch from the somewhat vulnerable TOR to more secure networks such as I2P – but this has not yet been the case. The threat from decentralized marketplaces such as OpenBazaar, a BitTorrent-like peer-2-peer network that allows trade between users and uses Bitcoin as a means of payment, is even greater. “Since the market is peer-2-peer, there is no website or server that can be attacked by the investigators. The intervention is very challenging. ”

Prohibit encryption? Impossible!

This report shows in an alarming way the threat to the enforcement of the rule of law on the Internet. What is alarming is less the extent of the crimes than the inability of the authorities to protect citizens from them. Europol has the issue in its sights in any case, but is just as powerless as the copyright industry was and is against the file sharers. The potential anonymity and freedom of location of the Internet represent a huge stumbling block for law enforcement officers. As the report shows, crimes can indeed be prosecuted and punished, but hardly prevented.

In an appendix, the Report the ability to prohibit or restrict cryptography. “This is a technology that governments can no longer control. Unlike weapons of mass destruction, no large infrastructure is required to produce and distribute encryption. The technology is already widely available and free of charge.“Trying to get it under control is futile. Even if all EU countries banned encryption and the general public did not use it, it would not prevent criminals from encrypting messages. “It would have the unfortunate effect of making those who obey the law even more vulnerable to criminals.” The use of encryption and cryptocurrencies is even enough for the general public in this sense as protection against some types of cybercrime.

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