The US Treasury has increased efforts to target anonymity technologies, such as those used in the virtual asset sector.

In August, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash. It said the service had laundered more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since its creation in 2019. That included millions garnered from state-sponsored hacks, the organisation said.

Mixing it up

Services such as Tornado Cash work by mixing or tumbling cash. That helps criminals hide the origin of funds because investigators cannot track such transactions easily.

Tricks of the trade include ring signatures, which hide the identity of the person originating a transaction. In addition, ring confidential transactions hide the amount used in financial exchanges. Stealth addresses obscure the address of the recipient.

“Providers of anonymizing services, such as mixers or tumblers, are generally providers of software platforms that accept virtual assets and retransmit them in a manner that anonymizes the original source,” the organisation said. Some services may operate as money transmitters. But others “…deliberately operate in a noncompliant manner to make it more difficult for regulators and law enforcement to trace illicit funds,” the US Treasury said.

Business-like

In fact, many organisations that can be accessed via the dark net operate like legitimate businesses. During a three-month investigation, cyber analysts HP Wolf Security and
Forensic Pathways found a thriving cybercriminal marketplace.

For example, they found 77 per cent of cybercriminal marketplaces required a vendor bond — a license to sell — which cost up to $3,000. Eighty-five percent of these used escrow payments, and 92 per cent had a third-party dispute resolution service. Every marketplace provided vendor feedback scores.

Monitoring threats

On the other hand, businesses can use dark net web intelligence to monitor threats. Because cybercrime has become like a team sport, potential attacks may be posted on chatrooms and noticeboards.

Industry publication Tech Times recently publish the top five tools businesses use to collate intelligence on dark net activities.