Reportedly, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation has made notable advancements in tracking Monero (XMR) transactions within an ongoing inquiry related to the criminal case of Julius Aleksanteri Kivimäki.
Kivimäki is facing charges for infiltrating a private mental health firm’s database and requesting ransom payments in various cryptocurrencies.
As per local media reports, on January 22nd, prosecutors presented fresh evidence that unveiled a cryptocurrency trail leading to Kivimäki’s bank account.
The purported hacker allegedly demanded 40 Bitcoins, equivalent to around 450,000 euros at the time, as payment in exchange for not disclosing the records of over 33,000 patients associated with the psychotherapy service provider Vastaamo.
After the ransom remained unpaid, Kivimäki allegedly turned his attention to individual patients.
Finnish law enforcement asserts that the hacker received payments in Bitcoin, transferred the funds to an exchange without complying with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, converted them into Monero, and subsequently transferred them to a designated Monero wallet.
Following this, the funds were purportedly sent to Binance, where they were exchanged back into Bitcoin before being distributed to various other wallets.
Local authorities have maintained a level of confidentiality and refrained from disclosing additional specifics about their on-chain analysis.
Monero Uses Privacy-Enhancing Tech to Obfuscate Transactions
Monero is widely recognized for its robust privacy features, as its official website claims it to be “untraceable.”
This cryptocurrency employs privacy-enhancing technologies such as Ring Confidential Transactions (RingCT), ring signatures, and stealth addresses.
RingCT effectively mixes users’ transactions, thereby obfuscating the true source of funds. Meanwhile, ring signatures conceal the sender’s identity by presenting them as part of a group of potential senders.
Moreover, Monero’s stealth addresses enable the generation of unique addresses for each transaction, making it challenging to link multiple transactions to the same recipient.
The capacity of Monero and similar anonymous cryptocurrencies to provide complete user anonymity has drawn scrutiny from authorities worldwide. In 2019, Eric Woerth, the head of France’s National Assembly’s Finance Committee, proposed a ban on anonymous cryptocurrencies, including Monero, citing concerns about the potential for bypassing identification procedures.
Even United States authorities have conducted thorough examinations of Monero.
In 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offered a reward of up to $625,000 for anyone who could successfully trace transactions involving privacy coins that were believed to be untraceable.
It was reported that ransomware attackers were increasingly demanding payments in privacy coins like Monero, although they still predominantly accepted Bitcoin (BTC) payments, albeit with a premium.
According to a report by crypto intelligence company CipherTrace, most of the groups and strains known to use Monero (XMR) are relatively new. CipherTrace’s data revealed that at least 22 ransomware groups, although not all of them currently active, exclusively accept XMR, while another seven accept both BTC and XMR.
The analysts identified over 50 groups and strains that utilize XMR, but the list of those using BTC extends to well over 1,000.
For instance, the cybercriminal hacking group DarkSide, notable for its attack on Colonial Pipeline, accepts payments in both BTC and XMR but imposes a 10% to 20% surcharge for payments made in BTC.