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Wyoming lawmakers pass bill to prevent forced disclosure of private keys

If Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signs the bill, from July 1 individuals in Wyoming will be protected from being forced to divulge their private keys, with one limited exception.

Wyoming lawmakers have passed a bill that will prohibit courts in the state from forcing someone to disclose their digital asset private keys, with one minor exception.

The bill was passed by a vote of 41-13 in the Wyoming House of Representatives on Feb. 15, a day after passing 31-0 in the Wyoming Senate.

If the bill is approved by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, the law will come into effect on July 1.

The new law — W.S. 34-29-107 — titled “Production of private keys; prohibition.” Source: The State of Wyoming Legislature

“No person shall be compelled to produce a private key or make a private key known to any other person in any civil, criminal, administrative, legislative or other proceeding[s]” in the state of Wyoming, the incoming law reads.

The law includes any private keys associated with digital assets, one’s digital identity or any other interests or rights to which the private key provides.

The minor exception involves when a public key is unavailable or is unable to disclose details of the digital asset, digital identity or other interest or right.

However, the act also states that the new law will not bar one from being compelled “to produce, sell, transfer, convey or disclose a digital asset, digital identity or other interest or right” that a private key could provide access to.

It also doesn’t prevent one from being compelled to “disclose information about the digital asset, digital identity or other interest or right.”

The new law — W.S. 34-29-107 — will be titled “Production of private keys; prohibition.”

The private keys legislation comes under Chapter 29 — Digital Assets which is a subset of Title 34 — Property, Conveyances and Security Transactions.

Related: Death and self-custody: How to pass on your crypto when you die

The passing of the bill comes as the private key law has been in the works since as early as September 2019.

Wyoming has long been touted as one of the most crypto-friendly states in the U.S.

It was the first state in the U.S. to declare a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) as a limited liability company (LLC) in July 2021, and has previously considered a state-issued stablecoin in February 2022 — however, it appears that those endeavors haven’t progressed too much since then.

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Criminal use of crypto an ‘emerging threat’ — Australian police

Law enforcement will need to “continually evolve” in order to keep pace with criminals, Australia’s federal police said.

Australia’s federal law enforcement agency has highlighted the criminal use of cryptocurrency as an “emerging threat” in the country but says it’s a continuous challenge to keep up the pace with criminals. 

A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) told Cointelegraph that there has been an “increase in the number of offenders using cryptocurrencies to facilitate illicit business and attempting to conceal the ownership of assets,” noting:

“The criminal use of cryptocurrency is an emerging threat for law enforcement.”

However, they admitted the biggest challenge for law enforcement is to “continually evolve” their “tools, techniques and legal frameworks” to keep pace with criminals, particularly as mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency increases.

Last month, the AFP established a new cryptocurrency unit focused on monitoring crypto-related transactions.

However, the spokesperson said that despite the previous establishment of crypto-focused units, “criminals are continuing to find opportunities to avoid law enforcement and exploit the public.”

Misplaced focus? 

One Australian private investigator believes the AFP is yet to focus on the “prolific and profitable” crypto crime yet — online investment fraud.

IFW Global executive chairman Ken Gamble told Cointelegraph that most of the AFP’s focus recently has been on crypto money laundering relating to drug trafficking, cyber intrusion, ransomware, email compromise and hacking, but not “large-scale online investment fraud.”

Scamwatch data between January and July this year found that Australians had lost 242.5 million Australian dollars ($152.6 million) to scammers in 2022 already, with the majority of funds lost to investment scams, including romance baiting scams, classic Ponzi schemes and cryptocurrency scams.

The figure is already 36% higher than the that of the whole of 2021.

The investigator also believes that some law enforcement departments are still not fully equipped to handle crypto crime cases adding that “law enforcement agencies need better training and education on how cryptocurrency works.”

A report from analytics firm Chainalysis in July found that 74% of public agencies felt under-equipped to investigate cryptocurrency-related crime, with respondents indicating that many agencies did not use specialized blockchain analytical tools.

“There is a shortage of professional and certified cryptocurrency tracers rapidly involving the criminal industry,” said Gamble.

Related: Put your hands up! Interpol storms into the metaverse

This may be soon to change, with a number of international and national authorities announcing the establishment of crypto-crime-focused units this year.

Meanwhile, Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) recently set up a special team in Singapore to help the government fight crimes involving virtual assets.

Interpol secretary Jürgen Stock stated at Interpol’s general assembly in India on the need for further training in crypto for law enforcement, saying cryptocurrency “poses a challenge,” as agencies are “not properly trained and properly equipped from the beginning.”

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Victorian police to get ‘greater power’ to seize crypto assets from criminals

The new bill will also compel cryptocurrency exchanges to hand over information that could assist police in criminal investigations.

Victorian Police in Australia will soon be granted new powers to seize cryptocurrency and digital assets from criminals, as well as compel platforms to hand over information about suspects.

According to a statement released by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on Aug. 2, new laws were introduced to parliament on Tuesday under the Major Crime and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, with the aim of cracking down on organized crime in the state.

The new bill is expected to give authorities “greater power” to identify and seize digital assets, in response to the growing use of digital cryptocurrencies by organized crime.

The laws will uphold also require crypto exchanges disclose information to assist with criminal investigations in the same way that banks would.

“They will be able to compel cryptocurrency platforms to hand over information about suspects like banks currently must, and seize digital ‘wallets’.”

It will also give police greater search powers to obtain electronic data when executing search warrants and make the criminal’s “forfeited property” more easily available to compensate victims of the crime.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Michael Bacina, a digital asset specialist at Piper Alderman, said that as the wording of the Bill has not yet been made public, one of the challenges he sees is around legislating for digital assets when it cuts across state and federal borders.

“A challenge of legislating for digital assets is that state jurisdiction often stops at the border, so ensuring there is consistency of approach between different states and countries, is paramount.”

Bacina also noted that police will need “proper training in the technology of seizure and securing private keys of digital wallets,” but also noted that criminals transacting in digital assets “provides a valuable tool for police in combatting crime, as transactions leave an immutable trail of evidence on a public ledger which is extraordinarily difficult to alter after the fact.”

Victorian Minister for Police, Anthony Carbines acknowledged that criminals are evolving their strategies, noting “we need to be just as quick in empowering our police to respond to new ways of offending.”

Related: 74% of public agencies feel under-equipped for crypto investigations: Report

Earlier this year, popular crypto monitoring tool, Chainalysis estimates that at least $10 billion worth of cryptocurrency is held by wallet addresses associated with illicit activity as of early 2022.

Bacina however noted that the analytics firm also reports that illicit usage is at its lowest proportion in the crypto asset ecosystem, “so further reducing the illicit usage of digital assets can only instill greater confidence in the digital asset and cryptocurrency ecosystem.”

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Former CIA Director Affirms Bitcoin Criminal Usage Is “Significantly Overstated”

The former director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency has released a research paper refuting the popular narrative claiming Bitcoin is used for criminal activities.

Ex-CIA Director Comes to Bitcoin’s Side

Michael Morell spent 33 years in the CIA and served as its deputy director from 2010 to 2013. The retired official was commissioned to write an independent report by the Crypto Council for Innovation.

His findings included two important conclusions which fly in the face of recent declarations by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

First, the generalizations against Bitcoin’s illicit use made by the Treasury Secretary are significantly overstated, Morell said.

The well-known narrative of Bitcoin as an asset used by terrorists and arms dealers doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. On the contrary, the author actually argues that blockchain analysis is a highly effective crime-fighting and intelligence-gathering tool. Instead of fighting blockchain technology, U.S. authorities should embrace it for its transparency.

In an interview with Forbes, Morell insisted that if the U.S. continues to waste its energy fighting a decentralized network instead of leveraging its potential and supporting the many homegrown crypto companies, the country will face severe geopolitical repercussions.

His findings correlate with official numbers on crypto criminality, showing that the amount of criminal spending on the blockchain can be estimated to around 0.3% of all crypto spending.

“We need to make sure that the conventional wisdom that is wrong about the illicit use of Bitcoin doesn’t hold us back from pushing forward the technological changes that are going to allow us to keep pace with China,” he told Forbes.

Disclaimer: The author held BTC at the time of writing.

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Armed Criminals Who Posed as Bitcoin Buyers Stole Over $5K From a 26-Year-Old Man in Argentina

Armed Criminals Who Posed as Bitcoin Buyers Stole Over K From a 26-Year-Old Man in ArgentinaIn-person crypto robberies are becoming a global issue lately for the authorities, and this time, Argentina is the place of the latest case reported. In Mendoza, an unnamed man was assaulted by two criminals who posed as bitcoin buyers. Identities of the Robbers Are Still Unknown According to Mendo Voz, the 26-years-old man, identified by […]

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