On January 25 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deputy assistant director, Greg Nevano, explained in a testimony that the agency was using “blockchain exploitation tools” to combat cryptocurrency use in illicit markets. Nevano’s testimony revolved around the growing opioid addiction problem in the U.S., and how the law enforcement organization is fighting the drugs deliveries stemming from international mail carriers.
ICE Is Combating Illicit Activities That Derive From International Mail Deliveries
This week the ICE deputy assistant director Greg Nevano discussed how his department was focused on fight the opioid and fentanyl problem plaguing the U.S. The director’s report explains how ICE is combating illicit activities that derive from international mail deliveries, alongside other cyber-based tactics used for fighting crime. Nevano also details to the U.S. Senate committee that cryptocurrencies are being used to facilitate drug trafficking across multiple borders.
Darknet Field Investigations and Exploiting Peer-to-Peer Cryptocurrency Exchangers
The ICE representative says the agency’s cyber-crime division is providing support to “field investigations” that target “darknet illicit marketplaces.” Nevano says that fentanyl and chemical precursors proliferate within these online markets and are sold for digital currencies. In 2014 the agency launched 37 investigations, and by 2015 the number increased to 100 inquiries. Today the ICE cyber-crime division is working on 600 probes and have over 500 requests for more field investigations.
“The cyber division is providing assistance with the development and management of online undercover personas in furtherance of online undercover operations and collaborates with joint agency strategies in taking down online sources of opioids,” the testimony details.
In support of its diverse financial investigative efforts ICE uses undercover techniques to infiltrate and exploit peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchangers who typically launder proceeds for criminal networks engaged in or supporting darknet marketplaces.
Training Agents to Understand Cryptocurrency and the Use of Blockchain Exploitation Tools
ICE says that it is training investigators from national and international law enforcement agencies to scrutinize cryptocurrency use that’s tethered to fentanyl/opioid or other narcotic purchases. Nevano’s testimony details that the organization is collecting “communication records such as phone toll records, Internet Protocol (IP) address activity records, email search warrants, and Title III wire intercepts” in these types of investigations. Further, the agency is also using tools that exploit blockchain networks tied to the digital assets used in illegal activity. Nevano states:
ICE leverages complex blockchain technology exploitation tools to analyze the digital currency transactions and identify transactors.
The testimony follows the recent actions taken by governments all around the world attempting to regulate the cryptocurrency economy. Moreover, news.Bitcoin.com reported on the blockchain surveillance company Chainalysis being contracted by ICE several times. Its likely that the Chainalysis blockchain monitoring products are just one of the exploitation tools deployed by the U.S. law enforcement agency. Nevano and ICE believe illicit narcotic smuggling in the international mail environment and cryptocurrencies are playing a role in the world’s opioid epidemic.
What do you think about ICE investigating the use of cryptocurrencies and the illegal opium trade? What kind of blockchain exploitation tools do you think this agency uses? Let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments below.
Images via Wiki Commons, ICE logo, and Pixabay.
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