Europol: Bitcoin's Popularity Growing in Illicit Online Markets

A Europol report has found that bitcoin is increasingly being used to pay for online child sex abuse broadcasted on illicit websites and apps.

Feb 24, 2015 at 8:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:34 a.m. UTC

Bitcoin is increasingly being used to pay for livestreams of child sex broadcasted over illicit Internet sites, according to a new Europol report.

Produced by Europol's EC3 cybercrime centre, the report sheds new light on the commercial sexual exploitation of children online, while providing evidence that individuals with a sexual interest in children are becoming more entrepreneurial.

"Live streaming of abuse for payment is no longer an emerging trend but an established reality", the report said.

It continued:

"There is a clear shift from traditional credit card payments to the ones providing the most anonymity, namely alternatively payment options, including virtual currency."

In line with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children's (ICMEC) findings, the report said that "there is apparent migration of commercial child sexual exploitation, along with other criminal enterprises, from the traditional payments system to a new, largely regulated digital economy made up of hosting services, anonymising Internet tools and pseudonymous payment systems".

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) identified 22 websites hacked with commercial templates exclusively accepting bitcoin in July last year. The news comes after Europol issued a report on Internet crime in 2014, in which it outlined a number of scenarios involving bitcoin.

The report, called the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA), examined the use of bitcoin on various dark web sites, organised crime and individuals, and called digital currencies an "enabler" for cybercriminals as well as a challenge for law enforcement.

Europol image via Shutterstock

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