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Darknet In Focus Following Brussels Terror Attacks
The recent terror attack in Brussels has once again highlighted the danger posed by the dark side of the internet.
Bernard Cazeneuve, French Interior Minister, has said that it has become very important for domestic intelligence to reach the level of expertise of the channels used by the terrorists. He said:
“I think of the criminal uses that can be made darknet type of informal networks, or, in general, the part of the Internet that is not indexed by traditional search engines and which run a large mass information issued by criminal organizations, including jihadists”, said Cazeneuve (Google translated version of the speech). “It is imperative that the domestic intelligence reaches a level of expertise and mastery of these channels used by our enemies. Its engineers and technicians, but also its analysts must be able to detect the beginnings of shares that may be committed on our soil so that human resources can be sensitized when necessary.”
Speaking of darknet, a recent study conducted by two professors at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London found that bitcoin is still the preferred digital currency for conducting a wide range of transactions in The Onion Router, or Tor network, that makes it difficult to track the activity of online users.
“Many of the sites we examined offered services for laundering money through Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the most common currency employed in all Tor hidden-services trade, often via reliance on third-party escrow services to alleviate concerns stemming from anonymous, unverifiable transactions between two unscrupulous parties. As Bitcoin transactions can be monitored even if not easily de-anonymised, however, services to blur the trail of Bitcoins have proliferated as well, for a nominal transaction fee”, the report said.
Europe, terrorist attacks and bitcoin
Following terrorist attacks in Paris last year, a European Parliament committee held a public hearing on the pros and cons of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin in Brussels in January. The committee discussed the possibility of regulating digital currencies in the wake of Paris attacks. The panelists largely believed that the virtual currency and blockchain industry should not be overly regulated for fear of stifling the new and potentially advantageous technology.
It is also important to mention at this point that the EU law enforcement agency Europol did not find any evidence to back up reports linking the ISIS to the use of bitcoin or other alternative digital currencies.
Despite these reports, the European Council announced last month that it will propose rules for virtual currency exchanges and wallet providers operating in the bloc by June.
CoinTelegraph rightly emphasizes that fiat money is completely untraceable in its cash form, as against Bitcoin, in which the underlying blockchain technology records every transaction, thereby making it an open, transparent and secure way of transferring money. However, it is also true that darknet makes it difficult to trace bitcoin transactions, making it a preferred choice for criminals and terrorists.