IDC’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) has identified a bitcoin front for Hamas which has links to Iran in a report exclusively obtained by The Jerusalem Post.According to the IDC-ICT Cyber desk report, the al-Nasr Brigades – Lawa al-Tawahid – serve as the military arm of the Popular Resistance Committees, was formed in 2001 by Jamal Abu Samhadna Abu Atayya and operates under the auspices of Hamas.The report also says that the brigades have been funded by Iran in the past, but appear to be low on Iranian funds in the present, leading to the new bitcoin fund-raising initiative.In addition, the organization is known for its kidnapping operation of Gilad Schalit.In the ICT report, the Hamas and Iran-linked group’s network of online media platforms is deciphered as well as how they all interact to raise funds for the group.A website called “cash4ps” enables Hamas to send and receive money out of Gaza for operational terror purposes while simultaneously providing a measure of anonymity to either donors or beneficiaries of the funds, said the report.While monitoring Bitcoin address 1LaNXgq2ctDEa4fTha6PTo8sucqzieQctq, ICT’s cyber desk noted “an irregular increase in the scope of activity,” and a “deeper review showed that the same address served a seemingly legitimate financial website by the name of cash4ps.”It added that the company connected to the bitcoin address in question “has been identified as operating an account in a banned bank.”A check with BitcoinWho’sWho.com did not reveal any fraud alert associated with the wallet, yet the report said that the Bitcoin Abuse Database website flagged the wallet as a fund-raising wallet for Hamas, the report stated.The Islamic National Bank, which the US gave a terrorist designation in 2010 due to its connection to Hamas, is linked to the financial scheme.The bank has a physical presence in the form of a few branches and ATMs across Gaza in addition to an internet presence under www.inb.ps where it offers banking services to Gazans, said the report.On November 28th, the bank opened a new Facebook page which refers to websites associated with the financial scheme in addition to promoting its services and advertising savings accounts. Additionally, the bank refers to a app that can be downloaded on both Android and iOS.Reviewing Facebook posts, ICT was able to connect the wallet with al-Buraq media, which identifies with al-Nasr Brigades “and included an appeal for support due to lack of resources and Iran’s rejection to their request for support” in the current time period.ICT also collaborated with Cobweb Technologies to uncover connections between certain Telegram accounts and the terror financing scheme.An ICT inspection on December 1 revealed that the total transaction volume in the wallet in question has reached 3,370 Bitcoin ($23,800,524.) In four years, the wallet has performed more than 4,5000 transactions.Further, the report explained that the company connected to the wallet has two physical addresses in Gaza: (i) in A Rimal neighborhood across from a mosque and (ii) Rafah – Balad next to the civil defense office (possibly on the Egyptian side).Moreover, ICT identified Ramadan Alkurd, a.k.a. Wesam Ismael, as connected to the fund-raising operations and has connected him with Hamas.There is a picture online of Alkurd in a Hamas-style uniform and another picture of him making a pro-Hamas sign with his hands. There is additional evidence linking Wesam Ismael to Hamas and proving that the two names are the same person using alter egos.A spokesman for ICT said Hamas’s use of the wallet for terror financing might be disrupted if the US designated all of the mentioned accounts and entities as connected to terror groups.While that would be a start, the spokesman noted that the West and other countries wanting to blot out terror financing should pass international legislation regulating the bitcoin exchanges.Only with additional regulation, which bitcoin has worked hard to avoid to date, can these nations force bitcoin managers to carry out sufficient due diligence to eliminate their being used as platforms for terror financing.The ICT report’s authors included Dr. Eitan Azani, Dr. Michael Barak, Edan Landau and Nadine Liv.
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