For this article, cryptocurrencies will generally be referred to as Bitcoin to avoid confusion.


Bitcoin was supposed to change the world of finance. Created by the reclusive and possibly imaginary Satoshi Nakamoto, it offered a purely digital currency that all of the people loved. Libertarians championed its unregulated free market aspect. Anarchists liked that it undercut the multinational corporate banks. Hipsters, of course, go to brag about being on the cutting edge of a new trend. Unfortunately, criminals quickly latched on to Bitcoin as well.

Touted for its anonymity, Bitcoin became the chief currency of online criminals and hackers. Wikileaks started accepting it in 2010 after PayPal and credit card companies stopped processing payments for the website. The “dark web” criminal bazaars like the Silk Road and its successors took payment exclusively in Cryptocurrency. When launching malware to hold a company ransom, hackers naturally demanded payment in Bitcoin.

Given the seemingly certified criminal approval, Bitcoin seems like the natural choice for funding terrorism. Groups like ISIS proved adept at using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Videographers and graphic artists regularly create videos with the quality of an Army recruiting commercial. Therefore, the obvious next step would be to start trading Bitcoin to enrich the new caliphate. Despite the widespread criminal usage and stories publicizing the potential of a terror funding mechanism, Bitcoin remains low on the list of the go-to assets for terrorist financiers.