This study is the first significant research of its kind to show the scope of cryptocurrency use by terrorist organizations and their supporters, for fundraising and for financing attacks, purchasing equipment, supporting fighters and their families, and more. MEMRI research shows that over the past five years, this has developed from encouragement on jihadi blogs to donate "millions of dollars" in bitcoin to ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and many others to terrorist groups and their supporters soliciting donations in various cryptocurrencies on social media.
The report documents cryptocurrency use by a wide range of terror entities on many different online platforms. MEMRI research has found that the main platform for terrorist fundraising today is the encrypted messaging app Telegram – terrorists' "app of choice."
Terrorist groups regularly publish their bitcoin addresses when they solicit donations on online platforms –Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, and others – and also share detailed instructions via these platforms, in video, PDF, and other forms, to show potential donors how to donate in cryptocurrencies. This report reviews these, and also reviews the cryptocurrencies used by terrorists, which include, in addition to bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, Monero, Verge, Zcash, and others.
MEMRI continues to be on the cutting edge of research on terrorist use of social media – notably on Telegram itself, and now with the looming threat of its imminent release of its TON blockchain and Gram cryptocurrency.
This landmark study shows undeniably that the future of terrorist funding and fundraising is happening now. The threat is too important to overlook; it must be researched and solutions must be arrived at, and this study is an important step in this direction. It will help educate those involved in the daily work of counterterrorism, and is a must-read for all those in government, the military, and academia who are concerned about this dangerous development.
*Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Vincent R. Stewart, former Deputy Commander of the United States Cyber Command, is Special Advisor and Chairman of the MEMRI Board of Advisors.