One of US President Donald Trump’s top lawmakers has signaled the US is set to get tough on criminals suspected of committing cyber crime using cryptocurrencies.
The announcement by US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein signals that the US president is setting his sights on clamping down on the sector which is as yet unregulated.
The US government is working on a “comprehensive strategy” which involves the FBI, the US Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Mr Rosenstein issued the warning at a Financial Services Roundtable’s spring conference.
Schemes involve bitcoin
He said: “A lot of these schemes involve bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which do not flow through the traditional financial system.
“What we’re working on now with our cybercrime task force is a working on a comprehensive strategy to deal with that.”
Mr Rosenstein also said that law enforcement are able to track down those buying and selling cryptocurrencies pouring scorn on the claim that they are fully anonymous.
He also insisted that when it comes to money laundering, police and other agencies will find a way to track those responsible down because the process of following the money, in this case digital coins converted to fiat currency, always leave clues.
He added: “We all know there are ways to trace criminal activity. Generally speaking, it’s not just about cyberactivity, there will be other ways that people will leave trails.
“Ultimately, even when dealing with cybercurrency, they’re going to want to convert, launder it into physical currency, and so there are ways to trace these operations.”
Gates has a grumble
The news came as Microsoft veteran Bill Gates took aim at the currencies which he once lauded would change the world.
He also noted that cryptocurrency can be used easily to purchase drugs online and had “caused deaths in a fairly direct way”.
“Right now cryptocurrencies are used for buying Fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and cryptocurrencies is super risky for those who go long,” he said.
One Reddit user pointed out that people can also buy drugs with regular cash.
“Yes – anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things but you have to be physically present to transfer it which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult,” he said.
A change in direction
The news that he’s concerned over the fact that crypto is responsible for killing people is in stark contravention to previous comments he’s made about the explosion of the sector.
He has previously been very supportive of the concept of a decentralized network that allows organisations and individuals to cut out banks in favour of peer to peer networks.