Key Points

Financial regulators around the world are trying to contain illicit funding in cryptocurrency markets. Jihadist groups thus far have not raised much money, but the Hamas campaign shows that no matter the price of Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies are a new and easily accessible way to diversify their funding portfolio. It is unlikely that terrorist cryptocurrency crowdfunding is going away soon.

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Much of the gap between the above-ground and underground crypto spaces comes from the tension between privacy and security. Financial policymakers should look at ideas for embedding AML-compliant blockchain-based systems into the banking sector that include measures for optimal (but not fully anonymous) privacy in transactions, as some academic researchers recently discussed. FATF’s update to its standards is just one step. Next, member states will have to develop a plan for dealing with the crypto underground. That playbook probably will not be found in the banking sector, but in deeper study of decentralized platforms. It is time for financial authorities to add more computer scientists to their teams of criminologists, lawyers, and finance experts.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran has a long way to go before it’s ready to launch a national cryptocurrency. Tehran’s central bank has that ambition, but the effort remains at the experimental stage. Some recent media reports claim that Iran has “launched” a state cryptocurrency based on gold called the Peyman. What really is happening, however, is less dramatic. It has few immediate implications for Iranian sanctions evasion, but does signal Iran’s strategic intent to use blockchain technology to develop long-term sanctions resistance.

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An arrest in Canada. Another in Poland. Government bans in Canberra, Wellington, and Tokyo. Corporate snubs and ostracism in South Korea, Britain, Germany, and France. The loss of purchase orders by one of the world’s largest wireless providers. And now a 13-count indictment by the U.S. Justice Department. It has been a bad few months for Chinese telecommunication titan Huawei. Unleashing the collective power of its democratic allies, the United States may have finally found the formula for imposing real costs on its cyber adversaries.

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Unlimited personal freedom has never existed in the societies that have have produced the greatest amount of civil liberty known to humankind. If the crypto space wants to promote liberty, it must keep in mind that great freedom, if it is to be maintained, will always come with great responsibility.

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