Category Archives: Europol

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UK Man Arrested for Alleged Role in $11.4 Million IOTA Heist

UK Man Arrested for Alleged Role in .4 Million IOTA Heist

A 36-year-old Oxford man was arrested in the UK yesterday on suspicion of defrauding cryptocurrency investors out of USD 11.4 million worth of IOTA, according to the BBC.

The man is alleged to have stolen the cryptocurrency from 85 different people and had become the subject of a Europe-wide investigation involving state police from Hesse in Germany, Europol, and the National Crime Agency. He was finally arrested by officers from the UK’s South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).

The man, whose name has still not been released, used the name “Norbertvdberg” while purporting to offer support to IOTA enthusiasts. He fronted his activities by offering to use his help site to generate IOTA-compliant unique passwords for other users by generating the seeds for users required by the coin.

The hacker linked his site to a public GitHub repository claiming to contain the source code of the service in order to convince other users that his support was legitimate. However, the code generated predictable passwords which were then being logged by the hacker.

Alex Studer, UK student and crypto enthusiast, explained: “This code patches the Math.seedrandom function, which is used by the [seed] generation code, to always use a fixed seed ‘4782588875512803642’ plus a counter variable that increases by one every time seedrandom is run.”

The effect of this, according to Studer, is that the same predictable series of numbers is continually returned causing the wallets’ seeds to always remain the same.

Det Insp Rob Bryant from SEROCU said: “This has been an intricate investigation into the theft of huge sums of money from victims across the world. We have been grateful for the support of our European colleagues… The offences have taken place over an extended period, and it’s likely that there are other victims out there.”

According to Europol, the operation was launched due to the vigilance and proactivity of the IOTA users as several victims of the hack reported their concerns quickly to the authorities prompting swift action.

The perpetrator is now awaiting extradition from the UK to Germany in order to stand trial.


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Europol: It’s Cash that Funds Terrorism

A 72-page long report recently published by Europol has clarified that it is conventional banking which is the primary source of terrorist funding such as the recent attacks on European cities.

The report explains that such outrages are financed through cash as it is a tried and tested form of funding. Finding an alternative source, such as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which publicly log transactions, is of little interest to terrorist cells operating in Europe, according to the findings.

Europol based in The Hague, the Netherlands, supports the 28 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organized forms of crime. They also work with many non-EU partner states and international organizations.

Also, in line with the findings of the report, in the US last week, a senior member of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies Centre on Sanctions and Illicit Finance spoke out against anti-crypto rhetoric, particularly those aimed at the financing of militant jihad.

A senior member of the center, Yaya Fanusie maintained that despite continual references by governments around the world that cryptocurrency finances terrorist activity, terrorist networks have been mainly unsuccessful in using cryptocurrency to fund their activities. The Europol report agreed, stating:

“…despite the clear potential, none of the attacks carried out on European soil appear to have been funded via cryptocurrencies. The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions – their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.”

It is undeniable that just like cash, cryptocurrencies are on the radar of criminals but the use of Bitcoin in criminal activity has dropped to 35% of the market share from a peak of 80% when the flagship digital currency was its infancy. It is now known that criminals are more likely to use Zcash and Monero across the globe than Bitcoin. The report clarifies that:

“While the criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies remains largely within the realm of cybercrime, some Member States reported that they are increasingly encountering their use by non-cyber [organized crime groups].”

The report concludes that law enforcement information sharing and tighter security measures are the best weapons cybersecurity has against cyber-attacks.


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Biggest LSD Raid in European Union History Seizes EUR 4.5 Million in Cryptocurrency

The Austrian Federal Police and the Spanish Guardia Civil, under the guidance of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), have conducted the biggest lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) raid in European Union history. The criminal organizations responsible were operating on the darknet and laundering their profits with cryptocurrency, resulting in EUR 4.5 million of cryptocurrency including Bitcoin, IOTA, and XLM being seized during the raid.

Two laboratories in the provinces of Granada and Valencia in Spain were raided and dismantled, resulting in the confiscation of 800,000 doses of LSD, a new record for the European Union. LSD is a popular but illegal drug which gives powerful psychedelic experiences. In total, drugs with a market value of EUR 12 million were seized. Additionally, EUR 700,000 of cash was seized, EUR 1.6 million was seized from an Austrian bank account, 3 properties were confiscated with a total value of EUR 1 million, ten luxury vehicles were impounded, and 8 were arrested and accused of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Apparently, the crime group responsible for the two darknet drug laboratories had been operating in Spain since 2012 and had been sending drugs to over 100 countries through the mail. The drugs from the laboratories were sold exclusively on the darknet, and they were supplying two websites that had become the most popular darknet drug markets in the world. However, the names of the darknet markets associated with this raid were not disclosed.

This raid and announcement comes on the heels of the biggest undercover darknet sting in United States history, suggesting there is an ongoing international crackdown on darknet drug markets and the use of cryptocurrency for drug trafficking. In the United States 2,000 Bitcoins were seized, while this Europol raid took in 510 Bitcoins.

Fortunately, Bitcoin’s price is no longer tied to darknet criminal activity, so this raid will not impact the market. A study by blockchain analytics firm Elliptic shows that only 1% of all Bitcoin transactions are related to crime. Fiat cash is used far more than Bitcoin for illegal activity.

That being said, darknet markets will continue to favor cryptocurrency as a means of money transfer due to cryptocurrency’s relative anonymity and cryptographic security. Considering how easy it is to set up a darknet market, the destruction of darknet markets in recent raids across the globe will only lead to new ones popping up, and the war between police and drug traffickers will continue across the darknet.

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