Cryptocurrency is still very much in its infancy, yet it has had a huge impact on the world in such a short time. The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, launched in 2008, created a new industry that has fundamentally changed the future of finance for better and worse. The total market worth of Bitcoin alone is a staggering $250bn. It is also worth noting that new cryptocurrencies pop up daily, with over 13,000 cryptocurrencies circulating today.
Cryptocurrency was invented to re-democratise finance, taking power away from government bodies. The creator is just as mysterious as the currency itself; the identity of the creator has never been confirmed. People who own cryptocurrencies essentially must act as their own bank, as an external provider or third party does not hold it. This means users have unlimited access to their funds as long as the value of the currency does not fluctuate too much.
Whilst this sounds like a lot of free, allowing one to have more control over their finances, crypto is extremely advantageous to opportunists and criminals. Whilst all transactions made are publicly available, the currency is anonymously held in ‘wallets’, meaning it is nearly impossible to identify who has made the transaction. This is a gift to those who have acquired money illegally.
Cryptocurrencies allow millions of dollars from illegal gains to be transferred across the world undetected, as transactions are not attached to names. Crimes can be committed and completely untraceable. An added issue is that legislation around cryptocurrencies is also not up to scratch, despite evidence showing crypto will only grow in popularity. EU financial regulations currently do not even consider crypto-purchased assets. It is estimated 44% of transactions conducted using cryptocurrencies are associated with illegal activity. More so, roughly 20% of the total value of crypto transactions is associated with illegal activity.
Hackers and cybercrime enthusiasts have been making great use of cryptocurrencies to hide stolen funds. Big brands like Uber and Airbnb have been two high-profile victims of crypto-related cybercrime. Thieves are able to rack up substantial profits by creating fake drivers and journeys and then concealing the stolen money in the blockchain. With nefarious practices like these going undetected daily, it's no surprise that reported money laundering cases to exceed $5.2 billion.
While cryptocurrency has high-security risks, it is partially becoming legitimized by traditional businesses now accepting it as legal tender. Even digital brands like PayPal now allow users to transfer money in and out of PayPal using cryptocurrencies. This form of cybercrime will only continue to evolve and become harder to track until governments and trade bodies decide to regulate new digital currencies.