Seems like nowadays, criminals don’t always end up behind bars. They actually end up investing in crypto, or, better said, a single coin (no, it’s not Bitcoin) that helps them hide their digital trail. We’re talking about Monero here, a coin that emerges as a number one crypto choice for cybercriminals, but also has a base of true believers, anti-establishment and privacy advocates.
Why Criminals Choose Monero and Not Bitcoin?
At first, Bitcoin seemed to provide the best solution to everyone who wanted to bypass the regulatory eye – cybercriminals, the ones that do money laundering, and the ones funding terrorist attacks. However, it turned out that it was almost as easy as ABS to track transactions through Bitcoin, which is why criminals started looking for a decent alternative – privacy coins.
Nowadays, when more and more countries are accepting Bitcoin as a payment option, it is essential to regulate the field, which was the topic largely discussed on the largest Bitcoin conference in history. From this point of view, it is hard to imagine that Monero and regulation would ever be mentioned in the same breath, and here’s why.
Monero is the most popular privacy coin that enabled hiding sender/receiver details, as well as the number of coins transferred – exactly what criminals needed. Bitcoin transfers are public and visible and transferring funds to crypto exchange is simply not possible without KYC – “Know Your Customer”, the process of customer’s identity verification that is used as a hedge against corruption, fraud, terrorist financing, and most often, money laundering.
For instance, Coinbase, a reputable crypto exchange, uses KYC verification, which is also why they haven’t listed Monero. Binance, Kucoin, and Gate.io are among a few exchanges that have listed this privacy coin, although most exchanges have de-listed it for its illegal associations.
This, at the same time, poses one of the biggest limitations for Monero. It is not as liquid as other cryptos since it can’t be traded on not that many platforms, which makes it trickier for criminals to get paid. It is also a bit hard for corporations to get a hold of this crypto, while exchanges listing it can risk losing their license.
Speaking of crypto exchanges, do you know what is the cheapest way to invest in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, including Monero? Exactly, the choice of the trading platform matters a lot. Some people trade Monero on the above-mentioned exchanges just because it has decent price volatility. In the past 24 hours, the coin went from $123,31 to almost $130. A couple of days ago, it was trading at $118, which makes it clear that not all Monero holders use it for criminal activities but some of them do it just for profit.
Monero focuses on anonymity and makes it practically impossible to identify users. Every time a transaction is performed, a one-time stealth address is created, and then, not only the sender but a “ring” of users signs the transaction, which makes it hardly possible to identify the actual sender and the owner of the right stealth address. This is exaclty what bad guys want – the ultimate freedom to hide all of the transaction details.
Not even the best law enforcement agencies managed to trace either of these privacy coins. As a result, some countries such as South Korea and Japan have banned the use and possession of privacy coins, Monero included, while others are considering banning them. As a matter of fact, this comes as no surprise, since concealing identities indeed facilitates cybercriminal activities.
Are Criminals The Only Ones Using Monero?
REvil and DarkSide are on the list of criminal groups that accept payments in Monero. Both groups were initially accepting Bitcoin, however, REvil removed this payment option in 2020 while DarkSide still accepts Bitcoin payments but charges an additional 10 to 20% fee to those who still opt for this payment method.
Dark web marketplaces are now accepting Monero as well, mostly for drug or gun selling. 10 to 20% of ransoms were paid in Monero during the last year while it was believed that this privacy coin would be used for paying more than 50% of ransoms by the end of 2021.
According to the latest data, this coin takes a high third place when it comes to the number of developers working on it, right after Bitcoin and Ethereum. Still, most of the developers from the Monero community remained anonymous until this day.
On the other hand, the reason for the coin’s popularity among crypto afficionados is simple – there are so many people who prefer that their transactions remain untraceable, some of them being criminals.
However, the truth is that not only criminals but many other, regular people prefer having their transactions a closely kept secret. Monero and other privacy coins, such as Dero or Verge, can offer that. For instance, Verge has been used for Pornhub subscription payments, and, in such cases, we can, kind of, understand moral and legal reasons behind this privacy coin’s utility.
Monero enthusiasts believe that there’s a major flaw with Bitcoin since it doesn’t provide a fully private financial system. In their opinion, electronic cash should be entirely private and knowing where and who the money is coming from should be of no importance in the Web3 world. Having in mind all of the pros and cons of cryptocurrency, Monero advocates certainly consider its untraceable nature a huge benefit.
However, it is true that criminals and purveyors of hate are the ones using this coin the most.
It is more than clear why Monero emerges as the best crypto choice for cybercriminals. Monero, as well as other privacy coins, such as DASH, allow users to transact on an anonymous basis, which is why those who are after illicit payments or the ones who want to evade taxes use them so much.