In brief

  • Homeland Security is focusing on illicit crypto transactions.
  • The Cryptocurrency Intelligence Program will look at illegal movement of money.
  • Other US departmens are also looking into crypto payments.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a method to pry on unlicensed crypto businesses operating on the darknet and peer-to-peer (P2P) sites. This, according to DHS, will provide closer scrutiny into areas posing “a significant challenge to law enforcement.”

Within its budget summary for the fiscal year 2021, released last week, the DHS detailed the Cryptocurrency Intelligence Program (CIP)—a cryptocurrency-centric initiative to trail unlicensed crypto companies partaking in money laundering activities.

The Silk Road was once used to buy drugs with Bitcoin. Image: Shutterstock.

“[The Cryptocurrency Intelligence Program] identifies unlicensed money services businesses in the form of independent cryptocurrency brokers’ use of P2P sites, online forums and classified advertisements, and darknet markets (DNM) to engage in unlicensed money services businesses (MSB) activity,” reads the overview.

Developed by the Bulk Cash Smuggling Center (BCSC)—an investigative bureau tasked with hunting illegal funds—the CIP will hone in on funds originating from narcotics proceeds, which allegedly make up a "large portion” unlicensed activity.

The war on criminal crypto

Under the scope of the DHS, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) established the BCSC in 2009, to wage war on criminal assets. Over the past few years, the focus has increasingly moved towards cryptocurrencies and P2P sites.

“Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are the preferred payment method in darknet markets. It is common for unlicensed P2P exchangers to obtain their Bitcoin from selling illicit goods and services on darknet markets,” ICE explains in an investigative report from 2017.

“To avoid reporting requirements, illicit vendors turn to P2P exchangers or become P2P exchangers themselves in order to liquidate their virtual currency,” the report adds.

The US upping the ante on crypto snooping will no doubt bring solace to President Donald Trump, who recently offered up the secret service in an effort to crack down on nefarious crypto activity.