The Australian Crime Commission has launched Project Longstrike. Its aim is to “develop an enhanced understanding of the national and international environment in the detected misuse of virtual currencies to facilitate criminal activity,” according to Judy Lind, the commission’s executive director of strategy and specialist capability.
Virtual currencies like Bitcoin have become useful tools for criminals looking to carry out their dealings anonymously via the internet, the dark net in particular. Lind explained:
“The ACC has assessed that organised crime groups continue to make use of darknets to harbour trading in illicit commodities, including child exploitation material, illicit drugs and firearms, stolen credit card and identity data, and hacking techniques.”
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Six weeks ago, authorities confiscated a Bitcoin ATM and arrested its operator as part of a crackdown on drug gangs.
The agency also revealed that it has spent two years developing technologies capable of tracing bitcoin transactions. It will be interesting to observe their capabilities, as it has been hitherto impossible to link blockchain transactions to real world IDs, especially when users employ technologies that further obscure them. Pattern recognition and other tracing technologies are also being researched by companies like Coinalytics.
The announcement comes as Australia ramps up efforts to formalize regulation around bitcoin with its Senate inquiry. The state of Bitcoin in the country in general has also drawn attention. Bitcoin buying service CoinJar has relocated to the UK due to GST considerations which were recently raised by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in the inquiry.