Bitcoin’s slipping as dark web looks to crown a new king of the cryptocurrencies


Bitcoin is becoming a less popular virtual coin among cybercriminals and other users that inhabit the dark web, with other lesser-known alternative cryptocurrencies starting to usurp it, according to a new report.

Once the firm favorite of ransomware peddlers everywhere – with demands inevitably made in Bitcoin – the currency’s mainstream success means that it’s now being eschewed by criminal types.

As Recorded Future, a threat intelligence outfit, observes, the overall growing popularity of Bitcoin is bad news for two reasons: more users means slower transaction times and also higher fees, both of which dampen profitability.

Slower transactions are a particular pain point for criminal types, because the longer the delay in the payment being processed, the more chance there is of things falling through or someone being ripped off – given the (unsurprising) rife distrust among the dark web community at large.

Therefore, while Bitcoin still remains the most-trafficked cryptocurrency on the dark web, cybercriminals are currently moving away from it. Recorded Future reckons that in as soon as six months – or possibly up to a year away – Bitcoin will no longer be the most popular virtual currency.

Instead, the firm reckons that Litecoin is likely to claim the throne as king of dark web transactions, as it’s the second most accepted virtual currency right now (30% of all vendors on the dark web accept it). This is according to an analysis of some 150 of the most prominent dark web message boards and marketplaces.

Dashed hopes

Recorded Future’s research stems back to mid-2016, when criminals apparently first began airing dissatisfaction with Bitcoin. At that time, it seemed like Dash would be the alternative coin to steal the latter’s crown, but the researchers soon changed their opinion to Litecoin. Although Dash still remains the third most accepted cryptocurrency on the dark web right now (it’s happily received by 20% of all vendors on the dark web).

Note that Bitcoin won’t disappear entirely from the dark web, according to the researchers. It will still remain one of the ‘main payment’ cryptocurrencies, just with a ‘significantly’ smaller market share.

What does all this mean in a broader sense? Well, it potentially brings up some interesting pointers as to which cryptocurrencies may be due for an upward spike in the future, for those willing to tread into the volatile minefield of virtual currencies.

Other than that, going forward, if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer the ravages of ransomware, you might just find a demand for Litecoin or an alternative currency rather than the traditional Bitcoin. Whatever the demand, though, it would likely be unwise to pay it, as we’ve discussed previously.


Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).