Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, has come up with a new way to raise funds for its terror campaigns: bitcoin.
The New York Times reported that the latest version of a website set up by the group's military wing, known as the Qassam Brigades, provides every visitor with a unique bitcoin address to allow them to send the digital currency so that the donations are nearly impossible for law enforcement to trace.
The site is available in seven languages and also features a video that explains how to acquire and send the digital currency without authorities catching on.
This latest report follows recent warnings by government authorities and organizations about an increase in Islamist terrorist organizations using bitcoin and other digital coins to raise funds.
“You are going to see more of this,” said Yaya Fanusie, a former analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency who now works as a consultant on criminals using cryptos. “This is going to be a part of the terrorist financing mix, and it is something that people should pay attention to.”
While Hamas has traditionally received hundreds of millions of dollars of donations from foreign governments like Qatar, and the Islamic State in Syria was able to obtain money through taxes and fees collected in the territories it controlled, both organizations have lost access to a significant portion of money through various sanctions.
“They seem to be reacting to all the economic sanctions by saying, ‘We are going to try using Bitcoin,’” said Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a nonprofit that tracks and translates communication from terrorist groups.
MEMRI recently exposed a video by a leading sheik with one of the biggest terrorist groups in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, where he explained how bitcoin could be used for charitable donations.
And online researchers have recently discovered campaigns by Syrian militants that requested donations be sent to bitcoin addresses posted on social network Telegram.
“I think we are still in the experimentation phase for terrorist groups — they are trying to figure out how best to do this,” said Juan Zarate, who was the deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism under President George W. Bush and is now an adviser to Coinbase. “What’s a challenge is that you see them continuing to experiment.”