Security Experts Warn Against the Use of NFTs by Terrorists
- NFTs provide terrorists and criminals with a way to raise funds and evade sanctions.
The potential of cryptocurrencies to be used by scammers, extremists, and terrorists has been one of the downsides of blockchain technology. However, security experts have raised fresh fears over the growing use of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, by terrorists to fund their activities and spread their message.
In a post published on Wall Street Journal, security personnel voiced their fears that NFTs could be the new tool that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups use to raise awareness and “sympathizers.” Intelligence experts noted that terrorists are possibly using blockchain to evade sanctions and raise funds for their campaigns.
Raphael Gluck, the co-founder of the American research company Jihadoscope, reportedly located terrorist-backed NFTs via pro-ISIS social media accounts. The NFT, known as IS-NEWS #01, reportedly has an image with the Islamic State’s logo and text hailing Afghan-based Islamic militants for assaulting a Taliban stronghold.
Former federal intelligence analyst Mario Cosby, who now focuses on blockchain-based currencies, claimed that one of the NFTs showed an Islamic State fighter instructing students on how to make bombs. Mario suggested that this might indicate that terrorist organizations are experimenting with new fundraising methods and broadcasting their messages via cutting-edge technology.
According to reports, the NFT was listed on NFT marketplace OpenSea, but the firm immediately removed the listing and canceled the poster’s account. OpenSea said it removed the listing due to its policy on hate and violence. The NFTs were also featured on Rarible and other platforms before being taken off.
NFTs can provide terrorists, arms smugglers, corrupt governments, drug gangs, and other criminals with a way to raise money and sell illicit items. Also, NFT marketplaces have the option for private and anonymous transactions, which makes it more challenging for authorities to disrupt them. According to a study by the Treasury Department,
The ability to transfer some NFTs via the internet without concern for geographic distance and across borders nearly instantaneously makes digital art susceptible to exploitation by those seeking to launder illicit proceeds of crime.
ISIS Set to Make a Comeback
By the end of 2017, ISIS had lost almost all of the vast territory it had seized in Iraq and Syria, choking off its main funding stream. The group suffered further financial blows as Western authorities imposed heavy sanctions and shuting down other fundraising options. Social media companies have also begun to censor posts from the group which promotes their actions.
However, global leaders are worried that the group’s online and in-person remnants could spark a resurgence and resume their activities. ISIS now has the chance to mount a comeback by invading and occupying regions that the Taliban control. But, the funding from crypto assets could hasten their revival.