As banks and mainstream investors embrace bitcoin, helping fuel the heady gains of the world's best-known cryptocurrency in 2017, some of its earliest adopters — criminals — have started banking elsewhere, Bloomberg reports. The problem for the criminal underground is that bitcoin's blockchain — or transaction history for each virtual coin — is traceable, allowing law enforcement and researchers to follow the crypto-money.
Europol, the European Union police force, warned three months ago that "other cryptocurrencies such as monero, ethereum, and Zcash are gaining popularity within the digital underground," with online extortionists and other cybercriminals apparently favoring monero, which quadrupled in value in the final months of 2017, Bloomberg says. (Bitcoin merely doubled in that time period.) These so-called privacy coins use encryption and other tools to obscure the sender and receiver in online transactions.
"As a community, we certainly don't advocate for monero's use by criminals," monero core developer Riccardo Spagni told Bloomberg. "At the same time if you have a decentralized currency, it's not like you can prevent someone from using it. I imagine that monero provides massive advantages for criminals over bitcoin, so they would use monero." You can read more about bitcoin's new legitimacy problem at Bloomberg.