Bitcoin
People are using the anonymity of Bitcoin to fund paedophile activities onlineReuters

Bitcoins are being used by paedophiles to fund "depraved" videos of children being tortured online, one of Europe's top police officers has warned.

Rob Wainwright the director of Europol, said that offenders are taking advantage of the untraceable nature of the digital currency to pay for webcam videos of children being abused.

Wainwright believes that the extreme nature of these videos is increasing as the "smokescreen" of the cryptocurrency means those responsible can operate without fear of being traced or reprisal.

He said the increase in online paedophile activity around the world proves police need to be better equipped with dealing with cybercrime and the way it is evolving.

"Child sex abuse is a classic example of how the internet has provided huge new avenues for criminal activity," he told The Times. "In some of the large investigations in this area, we're discovering huge growth in the number of abusers that are part of these hidden networks and the amount of images that are exchanged every day.

"The level of depravity seems to be descending year on year, frankly, including what seems to be in vogue now, which is live webcam 'shows' of toddlers not just being raped but being burnt with cigarettes.

"This is part of the genre of modern-day child sex abuse. Sorry, but it's happening online and it's extremely difficult for us to identify."

Wainwright said bitcoin is being used to fund this paedophile activity on the dark web, as well as funding other illegal online trades.

Last October, the alleged leader of online black market Silk Road was arrested after it was found that people used the site to purchase drugs and firearms using bitcoin, to avoid being traced.

Wainwright used Ross William Ulbricht's arrest and subsequent closures of Silk Road as an example of how far behind police when dealing with bitcoin-funded criminal activity.

He criticised the speed at which police deal with online crimes, comparing this to a failure to sufficiently respond to a "good old-fashioned bank robbery [where] they'd done six hits across six countries in six weeks".

"This is about the criminal investigator finding it much harder to identify the crime, let alone the criminal," he added.

"It is frustrating that we [police] are not getting the message out, at least not loud enough for legislators to hear it."