Feb 8, 2018

For cryptocurrency, online criminals prefer availability to anonymity

Photo: Chesnot / Getty Images

New research from Recorded Future finds that online criminals who offer an alternative payment method to bitcoin prefer the more available cryptocurrency Litecoin to the harder-to-trace currency Monero.

Why it matters: Bitcoin won’t be around forever, at least for use as a method of criminal payment. Due to design flaws limiting the scalability of bitcoin, converting fiat currency to bitcoin can be slow and costly compared to other coins. And, though the currency is harder to trace than cash, transactions between anonymized sources can still be traced by law enforcement, leading to some security issues. Litecoin is a currency better equipped to address the first problem, while Monero is a currency better equipped to address the second.

The researchers expected Monero to do better: Buyers of drugs, stolen credit cards and the like tend to prefer how much harder the currency’s design makes it to trace transactions back to buyers and sellers. But Monero has one flaw that sellers can’t abide by — it’s very difficult to store offline.

Cold storage is the difference: Bitcoin ATMs can convert bitcoin stored on USB drives into actual currency. They can’t do the same for Monero. Since online exchanges and storage systems have often been hacked, criminals — and security-minded bitcoin enthusiasts — prefer to store their currencies offline, what cryptocurrency users refer to as cold storage. Litecoin closer resembles bitcoin in the convenience of cold storage.

The methodology: There are hundreds of different cryptocurrencies and thousands of different criminal vendors. Recorded Future essentially went door to door to check who took which coins. Monero, what may be the gold standard of hard-to-trace transactions, came in fifth. While Litecoin was accepted in 30% of markets, Monero was only accepted in 6%, ranking it behind Dash (20%), the Bitcoin spinoff Bitcoin Cash (13%) and Etherium (9%).

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 887,067 — Total deaths: 44,264 — Total recoveries: 185,541Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 190,740 — Total deaths: 4,127 — Total recoveries: 7,141Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Vice President Mike Pence said that White House modeling suggests "Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States" in terms of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
  4. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest to issue stay-at-home orders, totaling 34 states and D.C.
  5. 2020 update: New York is latest state to delay primary — Bernie Sanders urges Wisconsin to delay April 7 primary.
  6.  🎧 Podcast: The Defense Production Act
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

West Virginia is latest state to delay primary due to coronavirus

Photo: Barbara Davidson/Getty Images

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice rescheduled the state's May 12 primary election to June 9 on Wednesday, citing fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports.

Why it matters: 23 other states and the District of Columbia haven't held primaries yet. The White House is recommending, for now, that Americans practice social distancing and gather in groups of no more than 10 people — while many states have issued stay-at-home orders.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Florida governor issues stay-at-home order

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday after the number of coronavirus cases in the state rose to nearly 7,000.

Why it matters: DeSantis has been criticized for declining to order any statewide mandates to curb the spread of coronavirus as Florida — home to a significant elderly population — has increasingly become a hotspot. The order will go into effect Thursday at midnight and last for 30 days.

Go deeperArrow55 mins ago - Health