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UK Police Sergeant: “The way we police is not just confined to the streets; it’s now in every home through the guise of technology”

According to the Leicestershire police, cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoins, is becoming the currency of choice for criminals online. They cite a February event, as an UK man was jailed for buying and selling drugs online using cryptocurrency. 

Sergeant Phil Ariss is a 12 year veteran of the police force. He was sent to East Midlands Special Operation Unit (EMSOU) Cybercrime Team more than four years ago. While there, he researched bitcoin.

By 2018, he had joined the National Police Chief Council’s (NPCC) Cybercrime programme. He coordinated training, offered guidance, and provided resources to police across the country. Ariss focuses on cryptocurrency, and he has worked with police nationally and internationally. 

“What we do within the team makes a difference to modern policing – the way we police is not just confined to the streets; it’s now in every home through the guise of technology,” said Ariss. “For all its benefits there is also a risk that it can be misused in the wrong hands.”

He notes criminals use bitcoin as a means to attempt to remain anonymous, it’s not just been used in the illegal drugs market but in other areas including cybercrime, fraud and blackmail. “Unlike other traditional banking services, or money transfer providers, Bitcoin is not controlled by any government or corporate entity,” he said. “This makes it an attractive proposition for those wanting increased privacy in their criminal behaviour.”

Ariss cites Paul Johnson, who was jailed for eight years for trafficking drugs online. “Digital media investigators accompanied officers on the warrant, and were able to identify that Johnson kept his Bitcoins in an encrypted ‘wallet’ behind a 20 character password,” he said. “More than £300,000 worth of Bitcoins were recovered from the scene and it is believed he benefited by nearly £2 million from his crimes.”

He says they regularly train officers and staff about signs of bitcoin usage. “We know as technology changes the threats change so we continue to work closely with a number of crime agencies, both in the UK and abroad, to ensure we are all on the front foot,” he said.

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