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Cryptocurrency can be difficult to track, making it a popular tool for money laundering and other illicit activity. As cryptocurrency technology advances and becomes more user-friendly, terrorist activity in this sphere is likely to grow. 

Cryptocurrency is digital money that can be used to buy goods and services but uses an online ledger with strong cryptography to secure online transactions.

The US Department of Homeland Security is worried about an increase in cryptocurrency use by terrorist organizations as the technology becomes easier to handle. Groups are in a “nascent stage” with digital money but are increasingly using it for fundraising, said Stephanie Dobitsch, deputy undersecretary in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee.

Cryptocurrency is becoming mainstream among transnational criminal organizations, Dobitsch said, and is used in ransomware attacks by nation-states and cybercriminals.

The U.S. announced last August that it had seized more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts from terrorist groups, including al-Qaida. Those groups solicit donations via cryptocurrency, Dobitsch said.

A growing familiarity with cryptocurrency may open the door to cyberattacks by terrorist organizations, Dobitsch said, adding that the groups have displayed a “rapid ability to adapt” and may turn to ransomware to fund their operations.

Questioned whether the DHS and the Secret Service needed expanded legal authorities to track cryptocurrency and combat related cybercrime effectively, the Secret Service said they need more investigative authorities, more law enforcement officers, and more computer scientists to “keep pace with the adversary”, according to bgov.com.