According to a recent report, terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and ISIL are increasingly turning to Bitcoin to finance their activities. The authors cite several examples, including:

  • The tech talk section of Al-Haqiqa, a pro-Al Qaeda English-language magazine, released in February 2018, examined the permissibility of using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to fund their activities;
  • In 2014, an article released by Islamic State supporters detailed how Bitcoin can limit exposure to the Western financial system, and recommended using Bitcoin to provide funds to ISIL and and supporters travelling to Syria;
  • Bahrun Naim, the alleged mastermind behind the 2016 Jakarta terrorist attack, reported to have used Bitcoin to transfer funds to militants and fund other activities (as well as PayPal);
  • Ghost Security Group reported that the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack was funded by Al Qaeda through Bitcoin.

Analysis: Terrorist groups will use any financing means at their disposal, including new technologies. Whether there is widespread adoption of any new technology by a terrorist group depends entirely on whether or not they are successful in their activities, and how many of them are caught during their attempts. Terrorist groups are adaptive, and if Bitcoin is deemed vulnerable to law enforcement interventions, groups will quickly move on to another technology of means of financing their activities.

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Category

extremist financing, illicit financing, Terrorist Financing

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