Monday, February 20, 2017

US Attorney’s Office in Colorado Preparing to Prosecute Darknet and Bitcoin Crimes

An acting US attorney for the state of Colorado announced a new branch of the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division aimed at tackling cybercrime with a group of highly trained investigators. Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer set up a six-attorney unit after looking at child exploitation statistics dating back to 2012. They also evaluated other forms of cybercrime dating back to 2014, according to the press release. Troyer named the division “The Cybercrime and National Security Section.” This, of course, is the short form; in full, the new team operates under the “Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division: The Cybercrime and National Security Section.”

Troyer enlisted the help of “several” cybersecurity specialists, a national security cyber coordinator, a national counterterrorism coordinator, and one expert completely new to Colorado’s U.S. attorney’s office. The office created the title “Digital Currency Crimes Coordinator” and filled the position with a Bitcoin specialist. The press release explained that the specialist would “address the emerging threat of criminals using digital currency and dark-net forums to commit serious crime that is difficult to track using traditional investigative techniques.” Internal specialists now deal with digital or internet crimes, including those involving national security, a spokesperson for Colorado’s U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) said.

This development allows the department to respond to these types of crimes with “groundbreaking” techniques. Over the last two years, the office increased their cybercrime investigation and prosecution rate by 20 percent. Additionally, since 2014, the Colorado USAO saw a 40 percent rise in child exploitation cases, and online child pornography cases rose the most.

The office also announced that, since 2014, officials prosecuted 16 for bitcoin or other cryptocurrency related crimes. The office has adorations, though. They hope that the new “section” will lead to prosecutions in a vast spread of sectors. The Colorado USAO wants to investigate and prosecute cases that involve “hacking, ransomware, network intrusions, denial of service attacks, economic espionage and trade secret theft,” the PR announced. It continued, “darknet crime, national security cybercrime, counter-proliferation and export-control offenses, digital currency enabled crime, and child exploitation crimes.”

The mention of darknet, national security, and Bitcoin in a press release by law enforcement strikingly resembled the Interpol announcement in 2016. Interpol teamed up with the Basel Institute on Governance to “gather, analyse, and exchange non-operational information regarding the use of digital currencies as a means of money laundering, and the investigation and recovery of proceeds of crime stored in the same form.” Both Interpol and the Basel Institute on Governance let Europol in on their partnership despite Europol’s shaky stance on the subject.

Just weeks ago, the groups joined forces at a convention dedicated to discussing their concerns about Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies.

Countries, states, and now an entire branch of a state attorney’s office believe that Bitcoin, terrorism, and the darknet are intrinsically linked. If the link is in existence, the government has kept citizens in the dark about it. Unless they count using Orbot, Android’s Tor, as an illegal activity, there is an enormous lack of proof and a massive push to criminalize Bitcoin. The Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office made a move that other offices and branches of government will soon follow.

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