Cybercriminals are ditching Bitcoin for a cryptocurrency called Monero that they consider a more real “private money”, according to Marc Grens, president of DigitalMint, a company that helps corporate victims pay ransoms.
High-profile cases of hackers tracked down by the FBI and other law enforcement through the money trail they left behind on the Bitcoin blockchain have spooked many cybercriminals who thought transacting in the cryptocurrency automatically protected them from surveillance.
More hackers now turning to coins such as Dash, ZCash, and Monero, which have additional anonymity built in.
Hackers are increasingly choosing Monero because it provides better “privacy and anonymity”, said Rick Holland, chief information security officer at Digital Shadows, a cyberthreat intelligence company, in a CNBC report.
Monero was released in 2014 by a consortium of developers, many of whom chose to remain anonymous. It operates on its own blockchain, which hides virtually all transaction details.
The main feature of Monero is Ring Signatures, which is used in the network’s CryptoNote protocol. It mixes the spender’s input with a group of others. This makes it extremely difficult to create a connection between subsequent transaction data.
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.As of December 2019, Monero was sometimes impossible to trace. Europol couldn’t always trace it, the U.K. government tried to pay someone to develop a way to trace it, and most countries are not close to being prepared for its use.
Reuters reported in 2020 that “few (countries) have set out comprehensive strategies for dealing with digital coins.”
President Joe Biden’s administration recently proposed requiring the collection of data on foreign cryptocurrency investors active in the U.S. The IRS said it needed $32 million in funding to be able to monitor money made on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Of the $32 million, $23 million would be spent on “contractor services.” Contractors would generate leads on illegal crypto activity.