Statistics, examples, and ways to legally use cryptocurrency
October 1, 2013, was a turbulent day for San Francisco Public Library. A dozen FBI agents pretending to be usual visitors surrounded a man sitting at one of the tables, took his laptop and put a pair of handcuffs on his hands. That man was Ross Ulbricht, founder of Silk Road – the largest darknet marketplace for drug dealers, killers, and other criminals. The seizure of Ulbricht was supposed to tackle the illegal online trade, but, as the news site DeepDotWeb wrote, the bust was “the best advertising the darknet markets could have hoped for”. The reputation of cryptocurrency also suffers from associations with terrorists, who sometimes use it for their needs. How big is the real scale of the problem? And how many legal ways to use crypto exist? ChangeNOW has dived into the topic – and suggests you an overview of the current state of the problem.
- The drugs trade volume using cryptocurrency is relatively large
- Crypto was a significant reason why a part of drug sales migrated to the web, though stays yet not viable and anonymous enough for dealers (same as for terrorists)
- As efficient use of blockchain technology requires good infrastructure, crypto remains not suitable enough for many terrorist groups
- However, some terrorists are trying to adjust to anonymity threats and hold fundraising in crypto
- Legal ways to use cryptocurrency include dozens and vary from IT services to car rentals
Crypto & Drugs & Rock’n’Roll
The total volume of the online drug market using cryptocurrency is around $1 billion. It is located in the darknet, which provides an attractive, profitable, and mostly secure environment for drug dealers. Cryptocurrency, in turn, allows making payments that are hard to be tracked by authorities. This is how blockchain technology has helped to bring a big part of drug sales online from the streets. And it’s not only about drugs themselves – many legal opioid drugs are illegally sold here, too.
However, cryptocurrency is not always as secure and anonymous as it is thought to be. The information about any transaction ever made stays forever in the blockchain, which makes the system way more transparent than cash payments. This is a significant limitation for using crypto in illegal purposes.
According to the University of Technology Sydney, about 46% of criminal activity of each year is connected to Bitcoin. As for the drug sale itself, trade volumes in crypto keep rising, but the percent of Bitcoin drug transactions out of all transactions goes down. This means Bitcoin is more frequently used for legitimate purposes.
What cryptocurrency is used for drug sales most often? Surprisingly, privacy coins such as Monero are used only for 4% of transactions. Due to its pioneer position, Bitcoin is used in 76% of all deals despite all its anonymity risks.
The main problem for drug dealers using crypto is to turn their income into cash. This move remains complicated and insecure. Most cryptocurrency exchanges have instruments to define whether a transaction is coming from a suspicious source like the darknet. The rise of Monero use in the online drug market will hinder such tracking. However, for the reasons listed above, crypto is unlikely to completely replace regular cash in drug sales in the foreseeable future.
The views on how much cryptocurrency is used and will be used by terrorists vary widely. While some claim that terrorists have no infrastructure to use it and the methods are not secure enough, others argue that they are learning fast and adjust to crypto rapidly. Let’s see what both sides say.
Not actively using, unclear future
Lack of appropriate infrastructure, inability to use crypto. Most terrorist groups settle in the Middle East region, especially on its remote and war-torn territories. The vast majority of roads and technological infrastructure have been destroyed. In such circumstances, cash remains the most common and convenient way to pay and fundraise. Imagine a gun seller in a Syrian village – does it look like he has a tool to accept Monero?
Anonymity threats. Given the relative transparency of blockchain mentioned above, crypto might remain too unsafe for terrorists. Miners can see any potential terrorist money exchange while checking transactions, and it’s not too hard to see who sends them money. It can change with the rising use rate of privacy coins, but the ability to spend such money remains questionable.
Increased attention to crypto by the authorities. As the number of transactions keeps rising, more regulatory bodies’ attention gets focused on cryptocurrency, which apparently makes terrorists nervous and cautious.
Problems of specific currencies. While top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin receive much regulatory attention, others remain marginal and unreliable because of a lack of support. Conflicts and uncertainty lower the trust to such cryptocurrencies – yes, even terrorists’ trust.
Using actively now, increasingly in the future
Terrorists seem to be rapidly learning to escape from tracking in blockchain. Several years ago it was easy to find any address or transaction made for a terrorists’ fundraiser. Today they use well organized and finely designed websites, where detailed video tutorials show how to donate money anonymously. Unique Bitcoin addresses and other crypto tricks are used to preserve security. Analysts from intelligence services claim there’s only going to be more such cases. And, of course, privacy coins are a “great opportunity” for terrorists too.
Shift to cryptocurrency is a reaction to economic sanctions. ISIS has lost most of its territory and resources, Hamas has been sanctioned by the West. Having been cut off from all main financial institutes, terrorist groups had to find other pathways for their financial activities – and cryptocurrency appeared to be the best substitute.
There might be difficulties and inconveniences, and the number of terrorists using crypto is yet unknown – but as we can see, digital money in terrorism is reality. Same as in drugs. And this is what cryptocurrency is notorious for, lacking trust among millions of people. The reputation of some of the exchange services only adds to this mistrust – ChangeNOW has carried out a special investigation on how such platforms may cheat their clients. But can you buy anything besides heroin and firearms with your crypto? What about pizza or a concert ticket?
Only Antarctica left
Cryptwerk, a platform monitoring actual use cases of different cryptocurrencies, says there are about 3500 ways to spend Bitcoin and more than 800 for Monero today. They range from music services to car rentals, from buying clothes to hotel booking services, and from sports bets to virtual tours.
Organizations accepting cryptocurrency are located on all continents besides Antarctica (what could be a better place for crypto than a continent without governments and countries though?). Mostly, in the USA and Central Europe. Bitcoin as the largest cryptocurrency is relatively widespread in India and Southeast Asia.
As this is a whole another topic, ChangeNOW will issue a post dedicated to use cases of cryptocurrencies. As it will be more detailed, who knows – maybe you’ll find a pizza right by that you could pay for from your crypto wallet!
This article was contributed by Jeremy from ChangeNow.
Buroka Review: How to Buy Bitcoin on Nigeria’s Newest Bitcoin Exchange
Buroka is a new breed of cryptocurrency exchange for Africa! Currently operating in Nigeria, Buroka was designed to fulfill the needs of modern Africans. Buroka allows customers to buy and sell Bitcoin with Naira via Local Transfers and cash deposits at the bank. In this Buroka review, you will learn more about the exchange and how you can use it to buy bitcoin in Nigeria.
How to Buy Bitcoin on Buroka
Step 1: Account Creation
To create an account, visit Buroka.com and hit the “Register” button. This will lead you to a page where you will be asked to fill in your personal information, including your name, email address, and password. Like any other serious exchange, Boruka will ask you for your ID, Proof of Address, and to take a selfie with your ID to eliminate fraud.
Step 2: Fund Your Account
Funding your account on the platform is straightforward. You can deposit either via bank transfer or at any bank branch. Make sure to use a unique reference code given to you by Buroka deposit system.
Step 3: Buying and Selling BTC
Once your deposit has been credited to your account you can immediately buy your Bitcoin. The buying and selling tab is located on the top right corner of the dashboard. There you can input the amount of bitcoin you want to buy. Once you do that, you then click on the “BUY BTC” button.
Step 4: Storing Your BTC
After buying BTC, Buroka provides users with the option of either storing bitcoin on the platform in a BitGo wallet or any other wallet of their choice.
Currently, Buroka only supports bitcoin (BTC). However, the exchange plans to include other cryptocurrencies going forward.
Buroka exchange makes use of Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). 2FA provides an extra layer of protection for users. With the 2FA in place, an extra piece of information is needed before login into the platform or making any withdrawals.
In addition, Buroka’s platform is also protected using the latest security technology, including web-socket and API protocols that allow for a fast and secure order processing. Buroka also makes use of a well-updated SSL certificate, which makes it easy to detect a phishing attempt.
To further ensure that clients’ funds are secure, Buroka operates segregated accounts. These accounts are held with trusted banks so that clients can enjoy an extra layer of security provided by the banking system.
Buroka is a relatively new Bitcoin exchange with a well-designed, user-friendly interface. The Bitcoin trading platform provides several deposit options, which is attractive for Nigerian Bitcoin traders, as well as competitive market rates for both buyers and sellers.
If you are looking to buy or sell bitcoin in Nigeria, you can give Buroka a try.
3 Reasons to Use a Bitcoin Mixer in 2020
Bitcoin is not as anonymous as people think. Bitcoin transactions are viewable on the network’s public blockchain, which also means that transactions can be linked to real-world identities. As a result, bitcoin is not (yet) fungible and does not protect individuals’ financial sovereignty as much as it should. Fortunately, there is something called a bitcoin mixer that enables bitcoin users to increase their financial privacy.
In this guide, you will learn what bitcoin mixers are and why you should consider using them.
How Anonymous Are Regular Bitcoin Transactions?
Regular bitcoin transactions are not anonymous. Bitcoin addresses are pseudonymous. They do not reveal your identity as a user but can be linked to your identity.
For instance, most exchanges require you to verify your identity with legal identification (ID) documents. In a situation where you withdraw funds from an exchange into your wallet, your identity can be linked to that wallet, and all your linked transactions could be tracked.
Blockchain analysis companies can use information from your linkable transactions to track how many bitcoins you own, what you spend your coins on, and who you transact with. If you are conscious about your privacy, you might need a bitcoin mixer.
What is a Bitcoin Mixer?
A bitcoin mixer allows you to mix your coins with other users. This obscures the ties between your personal identity and bitcoin transactions.
The end goal of a bitcoin mixing service is to create a misleading trail of transactions that makes it difficult to track your transactions. This is achieved by breaking down your bitcoin into smaller parts and then mixing them with coins from other transactions.
Most bitcoin mixers are non-custodial, run on the Tor network, and do not keep records of users after a couple of hours.
Why Do People Use Bitcoin Mixers?
The primary reason for using a bitcoin mixer is to increase transactional privacy. You may not want “the whole world” to be able to see what you are doing with your bitcoin. Through the use of a mixing service, you can achieve that despite Bitcoin’s public blockchain.
Moreover, there are a number of other reasons why you should consider using a bitcoin mixer. They include:
Your Transactions Reveal Personal Finance Information
Every time you send bitcoin to or receive bitcoin from an individual, the other party gains some information about your bitcoin holdings.
For example, if you have ten bitcoin in your wallet and you send two to another person. The individual who received the bitcoin now has access to your bitcoin address, which allows them to check your balance on the blockchain.
In some cases, by analyzing your inputs and outputs, they can predict other addresses you own, giving them more information about your finances and transactions you have done in the past. Mixers can prevent this. The mixer breaks the connection between addresses in your wallet by creating transactions that make it difficult for blockchain analysts to track.
Based on the example above, if you use a coin mixing service to send out the coins, the receiver can still check the blockchain to verify the transaction but will be unable to track your old transactions and find your bitcoin address.
Blockchain Analysis Companies Are Watching
Over the years, blockchain analysis companies have been established to track transactions and monitor the Bitcoin blockchain. These groups have resources to probe deeper into transactions, with some going as far as connecting IP addresses to bitcoin transactions.
Further, cryptocurrency exchange verification is required by regulators to keep an eye on how individuals use their bitcoin. This means that exchanges can still trace your transactions after you have purchased bitcoin.
Bitcoin mixers allow you to detach connections between your initial receiving address and other transactions you make. This can prevent companies from gathering data about you, which it would otherwise share with (or sell to) third parties.
To Prevent Censorship
Money has become a tool used to fund political groups and operations. In authoritarian regimes, where the financial system is highly monitored by the ruling government, critics or opposition groups may opt for bitcoin.
To ensure complete privacy while using bitcoin, such groups will require bitcoin mixing platforms. Without increased transaction privacy, these groups risk losing support in situations where the state begins to target individuals funding them by tracking their transactions on the blockchain.
This allows bitcoin to be used as a tool for freedom of speech and expression.
If you want to mix your coins to protect your financial sovereignty as a bitcoin user, check out Bitcoin Mixer.
Bitcoin in Africa: Making A Big Difference For A Big Continent
There is no doubt that bitcoin, and cryptocurrency as a whole, can have a huge impact on the world economy. Also, Africa could benefit from it more than any other region.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, recognised this fact and recently claimed that Africa will define the future of bitcoin. He might be right as Africa is predicted to have some of the most populous metropolises by 2100 and the banking situation here is abysmal.
As it stands, bitcoin literally has the power to boost the economy of the entire continent of Africa. The question is whether it will happen as regulation by local authorities plays a key part in the adoption of cryptocurrency.
Why Africa Is the Best Place for Bitcoin to Shine?
Jack Dorsey is a well-known advocate of Bitcoin, which means he understands its potential better than most. And he is right to note that Africa is an exceptionally fertile ground for cryptocurrency. The entire continent is struggling because banking services are outright unavailable to many.
Remote is the best way to decide the vast majority of towns and other settlements in Africa. Many of them are days away from any urban areas, let alone places urbanised enough to actually have banks, Yet millions of people in these remote places rely on remittances from their migrant-worker relatives to survive. With a great number of these people being unbanked getting that money to them is a huge problem. A problem that literally costs lives.
Wherever banking is available, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Many governments in Africa are not trustworthy and hardly seem to work for the people’s best interests. As all banking services are regulated at the state level, people distrust them the same way they do the governments.
The fact that the number of banks is limited doesn’t help. With very little competition they set outrageous terms, especially for those poor families relying on remittances.
The situation is changing a little with the help of online money transfer companies. A transfer from UK to South Africa now costs a MINIMUM of 0.5% in fees. This is a great improvement, but it doesn’t change the fact that such transfers still cost 7% to 10% for the majority of Africa.
In such conditions, easy and virtually free bitcoin transfers can make a huge difference in the quality of life. And people need this kind of service desperately. Therefore, it’s no surprise that if bitcoin is allowed full freedom as an accepted universal currency, Africa will adopt it wholesale.
How is Bitcoin Doing in Africa Today?
For all its potential, bitcoin is not a big thing in Africa today. Admittedly, cryptocurrency as a whole is not yet a big enough power to be a major factor in the global economy. It has the potential but it has not yet been realised.
Bitcoin is legal in most African countries, but this hardly matters because this only means that it’s not illegal to buy and trade it. You cannot actually use this cryptocurrency to make any payments, like pay utilities or your grocery bill. The best you can hope for is to pay at some international online shopping platforms that accept bitcoin.
In the states where using bitcoin isn’t banned, the government’s stance on it is very similar. Local finance authorities are investigating the potential impact of cryptocurrency. However, no state as of yet has reached a point where it decided to actually give it a legitimate status. Therefore, cryptocurrencies remain largely unregulated.
Being unregulated is one of the main benefits of cryptocurrency in the eyes of users. It’s an even more attractive advantage for countries where the level of trust in the government isn’t high. In fact, in many developing countries with unstable political and economic environments, residents now see crypto as an effective hedge that can protect their assets in times of turmoil. But truly benefitting from crypto is still hard due to its lack of legal status as a recognised currency.
The Wealth Lost in African Remittances Every Year
To understand how much of a difference adopting bitcoin can make for Africa one should consider some simple numbers. According to the World Bank, global remittances have already exceeded $530 billion annually. And this number keeps growing fast. About $40 billion of that money is sent by immigrant workers to Africa, over half of that money coming to Nigeria, where remittances are one of the main contributors to the GDP.
However, Nigeria is among the parts of Africa where the banking situation isn’t good at all. Therefore, remittances here cost about 10% of the transaction amount. With the overall amount of transactions about $29 billion, nearly $3 billion is lost in fees. Those are $3 billion that could go to the families and be invested in the country’s economy.
To understand how much of a difference that amount would make for regular people you should remember that GDP per capita in Nigeria is a little over $2,000 a year. Compare this to the US, where GDP per capita is over $60,000. Every cent counts for the families of migrant workers, especially when you consider that the size of an average remittance is under $500.
Bitcoin in Africa: Hopes for the Future of the Big Continent
The situation with banking and remittances to Africa is rather grim. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Bitcoin offers an opportunity to change this. The question is whether local governments will accept this and take the risk of adopting a decentralised cryptocurrency. So far, there have been no official announcements from that direction.
If this does happen, the economy of the entire continent could receive a boost. And the best thing is that this would be an immediate boost because that money already belongs to Africa, it’s just lost on the way there.
Bitcoin will make a difference. Jack Dorsey is absolutely right about that. Should this change happen, the difference for bitcoin itself, and cryptocurrencies in general, will also be huge. Recognition in Africa could tip the rest of the world in favor of crypto.
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