Report: Terrorists Increasingly Use Crypto to Raise Funds Anonymously

Terrorists and Bitcoin Crypto

As advancements in blockchain technology increase, there has been a wider debate regarding cryptocurrency and global safety. In an analysis report conducted by Chainanalysis, the findings indicate some concerning issues regarding the use of cryptocurrency.

Ibn Taymiyya Media Center (ITMC), the media representative of a terrorist organization called Mujahideen Shura Council, became the first terrorist organization to establish a crowdfunding donation in 2016 using cryptocurrency.

The organization guaranteed donors that the money it raised would be used to purchase weapons for terrorist activities. The campaign was called ‘Equip Us’ in Arabic and ran for the grand total of two years, ending in 2018. It was promoted across all social media platforms through Bitcoin addresses where the crowd could donate funds.

A more detailed analysis of the campaign conducted by Chainanalysis shows that half of the donations were made from various sources: almost 20 percent from exchanges, 17.5 percent from unnamed services, 10.2 percent from high risk exchanges and the rest from P2P and others.

Through the fundraising campaign timeline, IMTC received more than 50 individual donations. The campaign received most of the donations during a spike in June 2017, just under $10,000. Overall, the median donation throughout its course remained $164.

At the beginning of 2019, there was a similar report of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (AQB), another terrorist organization that began using Bitcoin to solicit donations. AQB used different types of cryptocurrency wallet infrastructures to gather virtual donations creating a system that generated a unique address for individual donor to send funds to. The organization was successful in fundraising tens of thousands of dollars of Bitcoin for AQB.

Identifying the Terrorists Behind the Bitcoin Addresses

Chainanalysis and its investigation into the nature of these transactions could potentially uncover the origin and destination of the funds that were received by the terrorist organization during its fundraising campaign. If the investigators are successful in discovering these locations, they can perhaps identify the donors and facilitators behind AQB who are running the program.

Chainanalysis shared that the first sub-campaign began in January of 2019 where the AQB website invited donors through a message that asked them to donate to the jihad, leading to a single Bitcoin address. The second sub-campaign started when AQB replaced the address with a new one, linked to a private wallet, assuring increased anonymity. And the third sub-campaign was launched as a Bitcoin wallet was integrated into their website that generate a new Bitcoin address for each donor.

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