August 10, 2017
The value of the shadowy digital currency known as bitcoin has jumped to record highs this month, sending shock waves through America’s defense and intelligence agencies, which fear its growth signals a surge in use by terrorists, drug kingpins, white-collar criminals and Russian cybercriminals who don’t want to be tracked by the world’s governments.
This summer, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Department of Justice and scores of European illicit finance law enforcement officials have fought back with a wave of operations against Russian cybercriminals. Late last month, they shuttered AlphaBay and Hansa — two of the biggest “dark web” contraband marketplaces rife with the illegal sale of guns, drugs and other forbidden merchandise.
In an even more startling sign of the battle raging around bitcoin, a FinCEN-led international illicit financing task force arrested a Russian “mastermind of organized crime” on a small beachside village in northern Greece less than two weeks ago.