POLICE Magazine

SEP 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1022864

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Page 102 of 136

100 POLICE SEPTEMBER 2018 M any an investigation has been solved by using the strategy of "Follow the money." at' s now much more difficult because of cryptocurrencies. A cryptocurrency is an encrypted piece of data that can only be read by someone with the "keys," which are usu- ally kept in a digital wallet on a phone. ere's a reason why these coded currencies are so popular with crooks: ey are pretty much untraceable unless you have the public and pri- vate keys or specialized knowledge about the blockchain. e most famous cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which last year experienced a near exponential runup in value before stabilizing this year in a range of around $6,500 per coin. A decade ago cryptocurrencies were nothing more than curiosities for computer geeks. Now they are going legitimate, but despite all of the moves toward legitimacy, cryptocur- rencies remain the favored money for criminal activity on- line and especially on the Dark Web. ey have become the financial instrument of choice for ransomware attack pay- ments; scams; money laundering; sale of stolen, counterfeit, or illegal merchandise; human trafficking; selling of illegal drugs; sale of unlawful weapons; financing of terrorism, and many other criminal acts. Cybersecurity subject matter expert Eric Janson recently told me, "Clearly there is a marriage between cybercrime and cryptocurrencies. eir use has and will continue to grow as cryptocurrencies, ransomware, and the Dark Web rapidly evolve." Criminals are drawn to cryptocurrencies because they are widely thought of as being untraceable. To some extent, there is truth to that belief. But since cryptocurrencies are not issued by banks or nations, their authenticity must be determined through a complex ledger of encrypted transac- tions called a blockchain. A blockchain records every cryp- tocurrency transaction, so the transfer of cryptocurrencies can be traced by skilled digital forensics specialists. Last year more than 400 investigators who work cyber- crime, cybersecurity, and money laundering gathered in Doha, Qatar, specifically to discuss the growing popular- ity and use of cryptocurrencies. eir report stated that "all countries should increase training initiatives in this field." Currently, many in American law enforcement are behind the curve when it comes to understanding cryptocurren- cies, their current state, and the implications of this digital money being used in illegal transactions. "Law enforcement needs to stay abreast of all cryptocurrencies, knowing how they are being used and manipulated," says Marty Cheliak, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) chief superintendent. In his testimony before the Senate Judi- ciary Committee last October, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed his concern over the use of Bitcoin and other crypto- currencies in criminal activity. In fact, he called Bitcoin "a big problem." He went on to mention the Dark Web marketplaces and how cryptocurrency is used in those online e-commerce sites. ere is no doubt that this is a growing problem and it impacts law enforcement at PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES THE CHALLENGE OF CRYPTOCURRENCIES Law enforcement officers need to know the basics of digital money because it is used in so many illegal activities. Police Tech MICHAEL COLEMAN Bitcoins, although called "coins," are not objects, merely lines of encrypted data.

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