The research firm Rand Corporation has released a dedicated report into virtual currencies and their resilience to attack.
Titled ‘National Security Implications of Virtual Currency,’ the document “examines the feasibility for non-state actors to increase their political and/or economic power by deploying a virtual currency (VC) for use in regular economic transactions.”
The definition of non-state includes entities across the spectrum, from legitimate businesses and organizations to criminal operators such as Islamic State.
On that topic, observations include the fact that the centralization - and therefore the extent to which activity is tracked - within a given virtual currency is not a top priority for illicit users.
“It is worth noting that non-state actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are unlikely to care about how centralized a currency is from a fiscal policy perspective; however, vulnerability to a cyber attack could be a significant concern,” the report states.
Elsewhere on security, Rand says that any given currency could face “significant challenges” in guarding against attacks from state actors.
“Ultimately, a non-state actor (indeed, even a state actor) would face significant challenges in protecting a VC from damaging cyber attacks against a determined and sophisticated cyber opponent; the main calculus on the part of the opponent is how much of their capabilities they want to reveal and how much investment in time and personnel they would want in order to ensure a successful attack.”
Bitcoin’s inbuilt technological resilience was recently subject to debate by commentator Andreas Antonopoulos.
In response to a question as to whether the CIA could or would attack Bitcoin, Antonopoulos said the agency had nothing to gain from doing so and that Bitcoin’s structure included sophisticated defense mechanisms to guard against even quantum computer-based threats.