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European law authorities raise concerns over privacy coins, Layer-2 networks and crypto mixers

European law authorities raise concerns over privacy coins, Layer-2 networks and crypto mixers

The EU Innovation Hub for Internal Security has released its first comprehensive report on encryption, focusing significantly on crypto-related issues.

The report, a collaboration between Europol, Eurojust, and other EU agencies, delves into how cryptocurrencies are impacting law enforcement efforts.

It highlights the significant gaps in law enforcement’s ability to track and recover illicit digital assets moved via decentralized methods like privacy coins, layer-2 networks, and crypto mixers.

Crypto and Law Enforcement

According to the report, cryptocurrencies, which rely heavily on public-private key cryptography, pose unique challenges and opportunities for law enforcement.

The report outlines how cryptocurrencies are increasingly used for laundering criminal proceeds, complicating efforts to trace illicit funds. The rise of technologies such as zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP) and Layer-2 (L2) networks, which enhance privacy, may further obscure the origins and movements of these funds.

The report said that currently, law enforcement can only recover funds moved via custodial wallets — where users do not hold their own private keys — by cooperating with exchanges and service providers to seize crypto suspected of criminal activity.

This cooperation is crucial, given the stringent user identification measures (know-your-customer, or KYC) mandated by anti-money laundering regulations. However, illicit funds moved via decentralized wallets and addresses remain beyond the reach of law enforcement due to the enhanced privacy offered by these technologies.

Technological Advancements and Data Obfuscation

The report highlighted several advancements that complicate tracking crypto transactions. Privacy coins like Monero obscure transaction details, presenting significant tracing challenges despite being less popular than Bitcoin among criminals.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies such as Dash and Litecoin offer optional encryption features that enhance transaction obfuscation. Mimblewimble, a protocol used by Grin and Beam, hides transaction details and uses aggregate verification techniques.

ZKPs, used by currencies like Zcash and mixing services like Tornado Cash, verify transactions without revealing details, posing substantial tracing challenges.

Furthermore, L2 solutions like the Lightning Network for Bitcoin create payment channels that do not broadcast all transactions to the blockchain, complicating law enforcement tracking efforts.

Future steps

The report noted the…

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