Darknet and Cryptocurrencies

Helping police worldwide understand and investigate digital crimes

There has been a growth in the use of technologies which provide anonymity to their users. The Darknet – the vast portion of the Internet which can only be accessed using specialized software – and virtual cryptocurrencies have many positive benefits, but the focus on anonymity leaves them open to misuse by criminals. The illicit sale of drugs, firearms and explosives; people smuggling; money laundering; terrorist activities; and cybercrime can all be facilitated by these technologies.

We provide a range of support to member countries when faced with criminal cases involving the Darknet and cryptocurrencies, working with stakeholders in private industry and academia to ensure the most relevant and up-to-date information is available to police worldwide.

Investigative support

As a partner in the European-Union funded Project TITANIUM, INTERPOL assisted in the development of a blockchain analytics tool called GraphSense which supports the tracing of cryptocurrency transactions. This tool allows investigators to search cryptocurrency addresses, tags and transactions, to identify clusters related to an address and therefore ‘follow the money’ in support of their investigations.

Based on a need identified by member countries, we are developing an analytical tool called a Darkweb Monitor, which will gather data on criminal activity on the Darknet and use it to provide actionable intelligence to support police investigations worldwide. The data and subsequent analysis will also help identify new trends, support research and advise prevention activities. The inventory of data will include:

  • Cryptocurrency addresses;
  • PGP (Pretty Good Privacy encryption programme) keys;
  • IP addresses;
  • Usernames and aliases;
  • Email addresses;
  • Darknet marketplace domains;
  • Darknet forums;
  • Historical data collected from the Darknet since 2015.

Darknet and cryptocurrency taxonomy

The INTERPOL Darknet and Cryptocurrencies Task Force is designing a global cryptocurrency taxonomy – a set of classifications defining which categories of data from suspicious cryptocurrency transactions should be collected. These could include, for example, what cryptocurrency exchanges were used, or the type of crime the transaction is linked to.

The categories would be digitally tagged to the cryptocurrency, similar to how a digital photograph is tagged with data on the location of the image, date it was taken and the type of equipment used.

The draft taxonomy, which can be viewed online, is focused on three categories of information:

  • Entities – individuals, organizations, digital entities;
  • Services – Darknet markets, cryptocurrency exchanges, messages facilitators and other service providers connected to the transaction;
  • Types of crimes – what crimes the transaction is related to, such as illicit online sales of drugs or weapons, child sexual abuse, terrorism or cybercrimes.
The final taxonomy will be shared globally as a standardized guide for law enforcement, private industry and academia to use for tagging cryptocurrencies.

Call for participation – Are you in law enforcement, private industry or academia and work with the Darknet or cryptocurrencies? INTERPOL needs your help to ensure the proposed categories effectively cover all aspects of the Darknet and cryptocurrency-enabled crimes which could be encountered. We encourage you to review the proposal and contact the INTERPOL Innovation Centre with comments and feedback.

CapaCT: supporting online counter-terrorism investigations

Project CapaCT, managed by INTERPOL’s Innovation Centre and supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is drafting a manual to help law enforcement in Southeast Asia tackle the misuse of the Darknet and cryptocurrencies by terrorists.

The ‘Practitioner Manual for ASEAN Countries to Counter Terrorism using the Darknet and Cryptocurrencies’ will provide law enforcement users with comprehensive guidelines on investigating terrorist activities on the Darknet, including those involving the use of cryptocurrencies. It will outline the various tools, methodologies and procedures for analysing intelligence linked to online terrorism, as well as challenges which investigators may encounter.

Based on the information contained in the manual, INTERPOL will develop global training courses and other capacity-building initiatives such as:

  • An online simulation-based training platform of Darknet marketplaces and forums;
  • Training on investigating cryptocurrency transaction systems which enhance anonymity.

Working Group and Task Force

Comprised of global experts, INTERPOL and the Bavarian State Ministry of Justice assembled a Working Group on Darknet and Cryptocurrencies to share methodologies and tools for identifying criminals taking advantage of the anonymity of cryptocurrencies and the Darknet; exchange best practices in online investigations; and establish investigative standards and forensic solutions for law enforcement.

To address the most critical challenges identified by the working group, we set up a Darket and Cryptocurrencies Task Force which will focus on:

  • Establishing an international database of criminal cryptocurrency wallets;
  • Compile a database of cryptocurrency attribution ‘tagpacks’ which can be analysed to assist investigations;
  • Standardize the language used to categorize data gathered, or ‘crawled’, from the Darkweb;
  • Foster a community of innovators and software developers from law enforcement to guide these efforts.