It seems like everyone and their mother can’t get enough of Bitcoin, today’s highest ranking cryptocurrency in the economy. There is, however, one market quickly abandoning the king of digital coin: criminals.
According to a new study conducted by Recorded Future, the cybersecurity firm previously specializing in counter-extremist intelligence, the dark web’s cybercriminal market has grown increasingly tired of the popular blockchain network since its rapid rise to fame around mid-2017.
Analysing over 150 of the most prominent message boards and marketplaces for soliciting illegal goods and services online, the firm was surprised to learn criminal users are swooning over Litecoin, now ranking as the second most popular payment method among the criminal elites and the fifth largest cryptocurrency in total value.
“Litecoin emerged as the second most popular currency, with 30% of all vendors who implemented alternative payment methods willing to accept it. Dash is closely trailing Litecoin with 20% of the market. Unexpectedly, Bitcoin Cash was the third most common cryptocurrency with 13% of vendors trusting it as a payment method.”
Users began to grow dissatisfied with Bitcoin once it rose to outstanding popularity, among both economic speculators and your average day-to-day “normie,” around the middle of last year. This drastic wave resulted in an absurd ten-fold increase in the price of Bitcoin processing fees. Users have reported commission fees amounting to up to 40% of their transactions:
Readers may interpret high transaction fees on criminals to be similar to progressive taxes being levied on the rich — where taking 40% of millions of dollars still leaves you with millions of dollars. This appears to be an unfair comparison when you consider most transactions on the dark web are between $50 and $400, according to another study conducted by the firm.
Such low prices can buy you forged documents, fabricated licenses, login details and stolen credit cards, but frequent users will have to cough up between $5-$60 extra per transaction — an inflation waste in comparison to Litecoin which can be as low as $0.02 and max out to around $1 USD.
The whole point of Bitcoin was to offer the public a counter-bullshit payment method that would leave banks and governments in the dust. However, high demand has also placed the Bitcoin blockchain into an unacceptable slow lane — both The International Business Times and Blockchain.info citing between 8,000 and 200,000 Bitcoin transactions at any given time waiting to be processed at a terribly meandering speed.
This has left an unreliable payment method like Bitcoin to be the way of the economically foolhardy, with active members in the crime community citing Litecoin and Dash as improvements to their flawed criminal system.
There seems to be no consensus on how criminals want to move forward in answering the Bitcoin question. According to a poll the firm conducted among several hundreds of members of a popular criminal forum, it was revealed that no unified answer could be gleaned as to which currency is preferable.
Their research came to the conclusion that vendors themselves will decide which currency the criminal-crypto market will employ:
According to one user the study cites:
“What’s happening at the moment is incomprehensible. Despite that I’ve used the recommended commission fees, my transactions have remained pending for the past three days, and my work has been paralyzed.
Dear vendors, please implement alternative payment options; otherwise, I will miss out on this Christmas season.”
When comparing the likes of Amazon vs. eBay, users no doubt take the speed of delivery into account — and this is no different for the underground market of the dark web. Undoubtedly, users of the dark web have a reason to fear the unsavory characters willing to break the law to earn that cash, and transaction speed is a key assurance for both parties.
As Recorded Future understand perfectly, every second is a risk in the black market, with each delay shedding more doubt on whether or not there’s a con-job afoot. With Bitcoin sometimes taking between 24 hours to several days to complete transactions, it leaves bad hombres with a sinking feeling of distrust, paranoia and more reason to escalate situations beyond reason.
In 2016, Vice Motherboard reported on Australia’s Queensland Police Task Force Argos who took months-long efforts to pose as arms dealers and child sex traffickers on the dark web, tracking down several criminals within days of the deals and addresses being transferred.
With such a slow processing time in cryptocurrency, the fear of getting caught increases and may result in counter-productive blowback: increased prices that drags money out of the legal economy, increased vetting that makes police efforts more difficult, and increased security that will no doubt be acquired through illegal means.
The researchers wrote:
“The same class of power users who helped to establish Bitcoin as a unified payment instrument across the dark web, spurring the underground economy and plaguing the world with never-ending ransomware attacks, illicit drugs, and weaponry, now see it as a roadblock to proliferating criminal business.
Litecoin and Dash will take their place next to Bitcoin as the everyday payment currencies of the dark web.”