U.S. officers are apprehensive about a rise in cryptocurrency use by terrorist organizations because the expertise turns into simpler to deal with.
Teams are in a “nascent stage” with digital cash however are more and more utilizing it for fundraising, mentioned Stephanie Dobitsch, deputy undersecretary within the Division of Homeland Safety’s Workplace of Intelligence and Evaluation.
“The priority for us is that because the expertise advances and turns into extra user-friendly, that we’re going to see extra exercise,” she advised lawmakers Thursday throughout a listening to earlier than the Home Homeland Safety Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee.
Cryptocurrency may be tough to trace, making it a preferred device for cash laundering and different illicit exercise. It’s changing into mainstream amongst transnational prison organizations, Dobitsch mentioned, and is utilized in ransomware assaults by nation-states and cyber criminals.
The U.S. introduced final August that it had seized greater than 300 cryptocurrency accounts from terrorist teams, together with al-Qaida. These teams solicit donations by way of cryptocurrency, Dobitsch mentioned.
A rising familiarity with cryptocurrency might open the door to cyberattacks by terrorist organizations, Dobitsch mentioned, including that the teams have displayed a “speedy capacity to adapt” and should flip to ransomware to fund their operations.
Subcommittee Chair Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and different lawmakers pushed Dobitsch and officers from the Secret Service and Homeland Safety Investigations on whether or not they wanted expanded authorized authorities to trace cryptocurrency and fight associated cybercrime successfully.
The Secret Service wants extra investigative authorities, extra legislation enforcement officers, and extra pc scientists to “preserve tempo with the adversary,” mentioned Jeremy Sheridan, assistant director of the Secret Service’s Workplace of Investigations.
John Eisert, assistant director of investigative applications at Homeland Safety Investigations—a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—mentioned his crew has seen an enormous enhance in its cryptocurrency workload. HSI had one cryptocurrency investigation in 2011, and now has 604 lively instances and has seized $80 million in cryptocurrency simply this 12 months, he mentioned.
“I can let you know concerning the previous days of legislation enforcement, following cash launderers financial institution to financial institution, and good luck if they may hit 20 in a day,” Eisert mentioned. “Now you possibly can sit in your sofa and transfer it 100 instances over.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org