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CFTC Commissioner: Crypto Companies Should ‘Distance’ Themselves From Anonymity Tech

Christy Goldsmith Romero, commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, recently delivered a discussion on cryptocurrency in London, focusing on the criminal financial use cases of digital assets.

According to Romero, the device “poses national security and other risks.” Crypto’s darkest corner, drawn by the promise of anonymity, promotes the financing of terrorism, the drug trade, darknet markets, cyber gangs, money launderers, and destructive state-sponsored behavior.”

“Cybercriminals send money to DeFi protocols not because DeFi is useful for concealing the flow of money.” In fact, unlike to centralized services, all action is recorded on-chain,” Chainalysis stated in its 2022 crime report. 

As a result, these crimes have become “huge points of discussion on crypto Twitter and in other industry forums, with many publicly tracking the funds and sharing the addresses holding stolen funds.” This can make it difficult for hackers to transfer stolen cash to a fiat off-ramp, which may be one of the reasons they leave the funds in personal wallets.”

This, combined with the methods used by investigative organizations ranging from the FBI to the Treasury Department to the IRS, has resulted in the monitoring, arrest, and punishment of offenders who have committed crypto crimes. 

Since 2019, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has sanctioned individuals who have worked with or for the groups.  On April 24, OFAC announced three new sanctions against individuals linked to North Korea and the Lazarus group.   However, according to a Treasury analysis on decentralized finance released earlier this month, criminals are still using fiat currency to conduct illicit activities. 

Romero believes that anonymity is the key to cryptocurrency’s criminal applications.

“It is critical for governments and the industry to address what makes cryptocurrency so appealing to illicit finance—the allure of anonymity.”  While the public blockchain can give some traceability and transparency, using mixers and technology designed to increase anonymity poses a significant risk,” she noted.

She highlighted a Chainaysis analysis that found $3.8 billion in cryptocurrency breaches in 2022. In comparison, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report for 2022, cybercrime cost the US $10.3 billion last year.  “Digital assets are already easier for law enforcement to trace than traditional assets, such as suitcases full of cash or boxes full of pre-funded debit cards,” said Dave Weisberger, CEO of CoinRoutes, in an email to Blockworks. The FBI, in particular, is well aware of this. In sum, there must be a balance struck here that protects financial privacy through digital assets while simultaneously trying to prevent criminal transactions.”

At the end of her speech, Romero asked the private sector and foreign governments to work together because digital assets can cross borders, and Romero stated that there may be “no safe passage” for criminal funds in order to protect the global financial system. 

“While there are many reasonable and effective ways for the digital asset industry to collaborate with regulators and lawmakers to help stop wrongdoing, we must not lose sight of our broader societal objectives.” This includes safeguarding people’s privacy as well as giving them the ability to choose, even when it comes to selecting digital assets for a variety of activities,” Umee CEO Brent Xu told Blockworks.

 

Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. Crypto is not a legal tender and is subject to market risks. Readers are advised to seek expert advice and read offer document(s) along with related important literature on the subject carefully before making any kind of investment whatsoever. Crypto market predictions are speculative and any investment made shall be at the sole cost and risk of the readers.