Going Dark: Challenges for Law Enforcement and Prosecutors


Image courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Former FBI Director, James Comey, stated “We increasingly find ourselves unable to… collect information being transmitted by terrorists, by criminals, by pedophiles, and by bad people of all sorts.” In the article entitled Going Dark, the FBI outlines two challenges law enforcement faces: the real-time interception of data and the interception of what the FBI calls “data at rest,” which refers to data stored on devices – the kind of forensics examiner recovers with special tools and software. Mr. Comey, in another statement, specifically called out virtual currencies and anonymizing technologies as tools criminals such as drug traffickers and online pedophiles rely upon to conceal their activities.  While these tools have legitimate uses, their prevalence in criminality is a concern for many in law enforcement. The lengthy statement, issued May 3, 2017, reiterates the FBI’s coordination with private and public partners to “pierce the veil of anonymity surrounding cyber-based crimes.” Read the full statement here.

The ability for law enforcement to access this data is becoming increasingly worse, due in no small part to the darknet, anonymizing services such as the Tor browser, and virtual currencies such as bitcoin.  The Council of the European Union also expressed its concern with the ability of cryptocurrency and blockchain analytics to progress the criminal business model earlier this year.  The Council went on to reinforce the need for law enforcement and legal authorities to ensure that they have the, “expertise, tools, legislative and regulatory means at their disposal to ‘follow the money.’” (Common challenges in combating cybercrime. Brussels, 13 March 2017) To this end, McCann Cyber has released an informational bitcoin video by our cryptocurrency and fraud expert that helps explain bitcoin’s multiple and varied roles.  In addition, McCann Cyber publishes monthly newsletters that address current issues regarding cybercrime, cryptocurrency, fraud, and finance.

Challenges exist not only for law enforcement but also for those in the legal profession who are tasked with identifying assets that may be concealed through these same methods.  Conventional discovery requests may not identify the location or the existence of assets. The digital and financial forensics experts at McCann can assist with discovery requests, asset tracing, and other cryptocurrency related investigations.


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