Is digital currency an alternative solution in fighting financial crime?

11 Sep

When you think of the central banking system and the South African Reserve Bank, you probably picture physical cash, notes and coins. You may have heard, earlier this year, that the country announced that the Reserve Bank was open to the idea of digital currency. In the release, the Reserve Bank stated that it believed a digital currency would “enable innovation and access, while still maintaining price and financial stability”.

You’d be forgiven (along with the rest of us) for assuming that this was a move towards currencies such as Bitcoin and other private cryptocurrencies, but that’s not the central bank’s plan at all. In fact, they are not even calling it a cryptocurrency, but refer to it as  “cyber tokens”.

What does all of this mean for cyber-crime, which has been prevalent in our country for the past few years? Does it mean that cybercriminals will now have easier access to hacking even more money – the digital kind?

As it turns out, having access to digital money may make things safer consumers.

Isn’t Cryptocurrency the Currency of Choice for Cyber Criminals?

If you have heard how cybercriminals use ransomware to encrypt data on computers and hard drives while leaving a demanding ransom note to make payment into a cryptocurrency account, then you are up to speed on how criminals have been using blockchain systems to their advantage.

The problem with cryptocurrency is that it makes the individuals in a transaction anonymous. This means that you can pay for something, or receive funds, and no one can tell who you are as there’s no real way of tracking the transaction. Sounds all a bit too easy for the criminals, right?

Well, here is where central bank digital currencies will differ. The banks are proposing a digital currency that is trackable and non-encrypted. This means that your personal data will be safe, but the transaction is certainly not anonymous.

How Bank Digital Currencies Could Help Towards Thwarting Cyber Crime

It’s hard to understand exactly how the SA Reserve Bank’s digital currency would work, but industry professionals infer that there are ways in which such currency could be used to minimise possible risks. Here’s how it may work:

  • A regulatory framework will be drawn up to determine precisely how digital currencies are seen, valued, and used. This means rules, regulations, and laws would need to be in place.
  • Banks would need to change their business models or find ways of incorporating digital currency management into their offerings, and ensure that their clients are protected.
  • Digital currency would be used by individuals in the form of a digital wallet. This is particularly useful for those who travel abroad. This means access to funds would be easier.

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It seems as if the country is going to have to wait and see what the South African Reserve Bank eventually decides. The roll-out of a digital currency could certainly be beneficial to many people, but whether or not the SARB could efficiently handle it is another story altogether.

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