Research: Cryptocurrencies Are Not Yet Viable for Terrorist Funding

Cryptocurrencies have long been blamed for allowing terrorists, drug cartels and corrupt politicians to move and launder their money across borders. The anonymity and security that cryptocurrencies can provide to such elements make them a lucrative option for moving and laundering funds acquired through illegal means.

The media has been shouting about it for a while now. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and many other prestigious news outlets have blamed cryptocurrencies for facilitating the illegal activities. However, a comprehensive researched report put out by RAND Corporation titled “Terrorist Use of Cryptocurrencies: Technical and Organizational Barriers and Future Threats” argues against those claims.

Are terrorist groups really using cryptocurrencies, the report puts out the question, and if not what would make cryptocurrencies better suited to the terrorists’ aims? The report analyzed things like fundraising, remittances, drugs, and arms trafficking among groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, and some “lone-wolf attackers.” After the research and analysis, the report concludes that no cryptocurrencies available on the market provide the set of critical factors that any terrorist cell would require for it to work well for their operations.

Specifically, there are six things that a terrorist organization would need in a cryptocurrency:

  1. Anonymity
  2. Usability
  3. Security
  4. Acceptance
  5. Reliability
  6. Volume.

The report argues that while it is a lot easier for individuals to send money to these organizations, it becomes exponentially harder for the terrorists to manage large sums of money that they would receive through these channels.

The report states:

“Large receipted sums are difficult to manage or spend anonymously, and cryptocurrencies still require infrastructure to manage and spend. We see little current evidence of the adoption of cryptocurrencies by terrorist organizations or the motivation to do so, but that very well might change as countermeasures shut off funding and as the cryptocurrency technology changes.”

Even private tokens are not of much help to terrorist organizations. While private tokens can be acquired and even spent anonymously, it is impossible to spend that “currency” for purposes that would fit the needs of a terrorist without running into the need for hard cash at some point. That is the very core of the argument. Since no cryptocurrency supports the purchase of drugs, firearms, or other advanced weaponry, none are fully viable for terrorists at the moment.