The European Union (EU) has announced the creation of an international consortium that seeks to diminish the use of cryptocurrencies and the dark web by criminals. As evidenced in the recent WannaCry attack, criminals use the pseudo-anonymity provided by bitcoin to their advantage. This project aims to find ways to stop the use of cryptocurrencies as a means to evade the law while still respecting the right to privacy of non-criminal users.
The consortium is composed of fifteen members from seven European countries and is funded by the European Union. The consortium is named TITANIUM, which stands for Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets. The €5 million research project is slated to operate for three years and aims to develop workable scientific solutions towards the challenges of curtailing and investigating criminal activities such as terrorism, fraud, money laundering, and extortion, connected with the use of digital currencies and the dark web.
According to the press release, TITANIUM, “aims to develop and implement tools to reveal common characteristics of criminal transactions, detect anomalies in their usage, and identify money-laundering techniques.”
In addition, the researchers will test the efficacy of their solutions on the premises of the participating Law Enforcement Agencies. Once these solutions have been deemed sufficient to mitigate the problem, the consortium will “conduct training activities in order to develop skills and knowledge among EU law enforcement agencies.”
Project co-ordinator Ross King, senior scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, stated, “Criminal and terrorist activities related to virtual currencies and darknet markets evolve quickly and vary in technical sophistication, resilience and intended targets.”
Therefore, to match the speed at which digital currencies and the dark web evolve, the consortium will employ varied methods of information gathering such as virtual currency ledgers, online forums, peer-to-peer networks of underground markets, and seized devices, in addition to the more traditional investigation methods.
King also added that the solutions created by the TITANIUM project would respect individual privacy and other fundamental rights. “The consortium will analyze legal and ethical requirements and define guidelines for storing and processing data, information, and knowledge involved in criminal investigations without compromising citizen privacy.”
As cybercrime is becoming an increasingly larger threat to businesses and individuals alike, government and corporations will seek to develop better cyber security solutions as well as ways to identify cyber criminals after attacks. As the launch of the TITANIUM consortium suggests, law enforcement and intelligence agencies will likely keep a closer eye on bitcoin users going forward due to the pseudonymity of the digital currency and its unfortunate links to cybercrime.