Cyber-Laundering and Cyberterrorism

There is a lot of talk in the international context about money laundering and terrorism; even international legislation sometimes deals with them together. 


The phenomenon of money laundering has evolved over time, although, in essence, its characteristics have remained unchanged. The crime of money laundering has become by using digital systems to conceal and transfer money using increasingly modern and sophisticated techniques. We know the three phases (Placement, Layering, and Immersion), but it remains difficult and arduous to monitor all money transfers, to discover the identity of the holders of the transactions, what their intentions and purposes are. 


According to jurist Vittorio Manes: 

Money laundering is a multifaceted criminal offense, which can be intertwined and confused with lawful activities in the legal and economic sphere. The identification of the provenance of such capital represents the main problem in the reconstruction of the criminal plan: the exchange of goods and services is a common practice in both lawful and unlawful activities, the latter of which can be repressed according to the modalities provided for by the law, which is also constantly updated by the increasingly ingenious methods devised by criminals. 


The main purpose of money laundering is to transfer sums, remittance of money, concealing their illicit origin, and reintroducing them into the legal economic system. With the technological evolution of the payment system, more precisely an evolution of the global banking and financial system, there have been several cycles of evolution, from cash that was physically transported from one bank to another to the clearing of funds, the use of prepaid cards, the introduction of electronic payments, digital payments (e.g., smartphones, smartwatches), the novelty of correspondence banking and home banking services, to the use of blockchain technologies. But in a parallel way, the ability of criminal organizations to exploit regulatory and operational loopholes to gain illicit economic advantages has also evolved over time. After 1980, in the criminal law systems of many States such as Europe and the USA, important studies began between criminal law and information technology law. Subsequently, over the years, a particular section of criminal law has emerged which examines, on the objective and subjective profile, the criminal structure of computer crimes. The criminal activity of computer crime is in turn divided into two macro-categories of offenses: the criminal activity causing damage to an internet network system (servers, computer infrastructure) known as Cybercrime and then that criminal activity damaging a computer, which is called computer crime. The most common crimes are abusive access to a computer system (public or private administration), ransomware, extortion, theft of data or encrypted data, the creation of false digital identities or substitution of digital identities, illegal downloading of data, or damage to computer infrastructures; causing serious problems to the national security sector, to individuals and causing significant economic damage, as well as public disruption.


 There are two types of cyber-laundering: "instrumental digital laundering": when the money laundering concerns one or more constituent steps of the money laundering offense; on the other hand, "integral digital laundering" is defined when all three steps take place entirely and totally with the computer or digital tools. Cyber-laundering commonly operates on the Internet, creating computer bugs and loopholes, or using specific hardware and software systems to establish connections in anonymity and non-traceability of one's location, thus deceiving law enforcement authorities. 


Terrorism in its typologies and forms (concerning domestic/domestic terrorism and external terrorism) has also undergone important evolutions over the years, particularly towards the topics of propaganda aimed at recruitment and terrorist financing, which are of greater concern throughout the international community. This is because the tools and chances of success caused by a cyber-terrorist activity can be more deadly and more immediate than a terrorist attack. The activity of cyber-terrorism consists of two words, cyber: meaning the cyberspace of the Internet and all devices that are connected to each other, central or peripheral network services, and the other word terrorism: meaning causing fear, dread, and serious harm to a state by means of criminal groups or organizations to subvert order and peace.


 It is defined that cyberterrorism offenses can be activities used either as a tool in their own right or as a tool to create imminent harm. 


Cyberterrorism activities understood as instrumental use may include activities such as terrorist propaganda for recruitment purposes: in that social media, private or encrypted messaging channels are used to organize criminal and terrorist actions; further cyberterrorism activity is the financing of terrorism, i.e. when illicit money is collected online to purchase money, weapons, drugs, and supplies for the performance of a terrorist action (Money laundering, Cyber laundering, may also be included here)


 Cyberterrorism is understood as an instrument, not as an end in itself, but when by means of digital or computer systems, one causes damage to one or more computer systems. The damage may have two effects, immediate/direct or indirect/delayed (in the latter case, the effects are produced over time); the first case when directly a computer attack blocks the inability of a system to function and causes damage equated to a terrorist event: for example, first illicit remote access of an aircraft (land, sky or sea), civil or military, and then the execution of maneuvers leading to the accomplishment of a terrorist attack; in the second case, instead, it is when there is an intrusion in a public system (hospitals, companies, public administration offices, health) that causes the blocking or illicit export of data, causing inefficiencies, economic losses, and reputational damage.


Written by Dimitri Barberini


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