A baseline assessment of law enforcement cryptocurrency investigations

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Central Lancashire

Principal Researcher

Stuart M Dubois

Level of Research


Project Start Date

June 2019

Research Context

Due to their perceived anonymity, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are already the currency of choice in cybercrimes, but are now also increasingly common in more traditional crimes, such as theft, fraud and blackmail. As criminals exploit this relatively novel technology, it is important for law enforcement to keep pace and be able to investigate cryptocurrencies effectively. 

There is currently a distinct lack of official crime recording statistics in relation to cryptocurrency-targeted or cryptocurrency-enabled offences, and a similar lack of academic research on the subject. Therefore this project proposes to augment a literature review of the limited literature available relating to cryptocurrency investigations, with a survey of those law enforcement personnel engaged in such investigations. It is proposed to gain an understanding of the current landscape of law enforcement cryptocurrency investigations by asking participants about: the categories of offences they are investigating most frequently that involve cryptocurrencies, the specific cryptocurrencies they are encountering (Bitcoin is the most well-known of over 1,600 different cryptocurrencies), and their confidence levels in investigating cryptocurrencies, presenting evidence relating to cryptocurrencies, and seizing cryptocurrencies. 

It is envisaged that this baseline assessment will assist in informing and directing future law enforcement policy governing resources, equipment, training and procedures relating to the investigation of cryptocurrencies. It is also hoped that this study will stand as a benchmark for future research to compare against, and will make a positive contribution towards the currently sparse academic literature available on what is fast becoming a mainstream subject

Research Methodology

An electronic link to an anonymous online survey will be distributed to a non-probability sample of law enforcement practitioners working in the field of cryptocurrency investigations. The sample has been identified through a process of focusing on the relatively small number of law enforcement personnel who are actively engaged in this field, and it estimated to number around 150-200 people. The sample includes general and cyber investigators, digital media investigators, financial investigators and analysts, not just within police forces but also in organisations such as HMRC and the NCA.

The survey questionnaire will capture some demographic data, mainly quantitative data relating to types of offences, currencies encountered and perceived confidence levels, and a smaller degree of qualitative data. The Quantitative data will be analysed using statistical methods and the qualitative through thematic analysis.

Interim reports and publications

‚ÄčNot available

Date due for completion

September 2019
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