A report by blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis indicates that although dark web markets continue to grow, the proportion of sales made using Bitcoin in them is shrinking. Recent high profile busts, as well as the seizures of prominent marketplaces such as Wall Street Market and Valhalla, is likely driving the shift towards more covert digital assets.
According to a recent article in Bloomberg, Chainalysis estimates more than $1 billion worth of Bitcoin will be spent in dark web markets in 2019. The websites, not accessible by regular web browsers, exist on a hidden part of the internet and sell all manner of illicit goods and services. Recreational and pharmaceutical drugs are by far the most popular listings, although child pornography and tools relating to various frauds are also common.
If Bitcoin does indeed end up accounting for $1 billion of the total spent on the dark web markets it will be an all-time record. Already, at the halfway point in the year, more than half a billion has been spent.
That said, the proportion of Bitcoin being used versus alternate crypto assets is declining. Perhaps fearing the ever-improving Bitcoin tracing techniques of law enforcement and the likes of private firms such as Chainalysis or the abrupt closures of several high profile dark web markets in the last year, vendors and buyers seem to be switching to Monero and other privacy-focused cryptocurrencies to do their illicit deals.
Interestingly, although many digital currency naysayers like to accuse Bitcoin of being nothing more than a tool for criminals of some guise or another, Chainalysis reveals a different story. Illegal use of Bitcoin continues to account for less than one percent of all activity on the network. The senior product manager of data at the research firm, Hannah Curtis stated that this was down from 7 percent in 2012.
Why do you think more dark web criminals are exploring alternative currencies to Bitcoin? We’d love to hear your thoughts.