How Terrorists Use Cryptocurrency and What We Should Do About It

Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, the Senior Director of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), spoke with EER on this episode of the podcast about the use of cryptocurrency and related technologies by terrorists and other malign actors.

Dr. Schindler began by describing what cryptocurrency is: the philosophy that underpins it, its origins, and how it has become more popular over time. He then went on to describe why crypto is used—the advantages it provides—and how it is used by groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) and Iran’s Hezbollah to move money, even in states where the technological infrastructure would not seem to support it. There is an interaction between crypto and the older hawala system, which Dr. Schindler explained. The use of crypto by outlaw states such as Russia and North Korea to circumvent sanctions was also touched upon. The regulation of the crypto space was discussed in detail: the resistance of the industry, the steps already taken by the U.S. and E.U., and what else could be done, as well as the potential adaptations terrorists will adopt in the future.

Where did Ansarallah or “the Houthis” come from? What is their relationship with Iran? How have they come to dominate so much of Yemen, and what is the nature of their regime? And how do the Houthis fit into the Iranian militia network as a threat to peace and security in the Middle East? These are some of the questions EER takes up in the latest episode of our podcast with Michael Knights, the Jill and Jay Bernstein Fellow at The Washington Institute, who specializes in the military and security affairs of Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf states.

Knights documents that the Houthis are an outgrowth of the Islamic Revolution in Iran exported to Yemen soon afterward, and it is with the help of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Lebanese branch, Hizballah, that the Houthis built up the military capacity for their jihad in Yemen. The coordination between the Houthis and Iran’s “Resistance Axis” is close, with Tehran sharing strategic guidance and weapons like drones with the Houthis. There does not appear to be any immediate-run chance of peace in Yemen, with the Houthis so entrenched.


Jacob Zenn, an adjunct associate professor on African Armed Movements and Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics at the Georgetown University Security Studies Program (SSP) and editor and fellow on African and Eurasian Affairs for The Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC, spoke to EER about the Islamic State (ISIS) reasserting its dominance over its renegade branch, Boko Haram, in Nigeria. The ongoing challenge of Al-Qaeda’s Al-Shabab, perhaps the most powerful jihadist group in Africa, to Somalia and its neighbors, and ISIS’s branch in the country, was also discussed. Other topics included ISIS’s outposts in the Congo and Mozambique, their interconnectedness with ISIS’s other hotspots in Africa and the potential dangers to neighboring states; the competition between ISIS and Al-Qaeda in West Africa that has been ongoing since 2020; and the implications of ISIS’s financial infrastructure in South Africa.


The EER Podcast with Maximilian Ruf, the deputy director of the research department at Violence Prevention Network.
The podcast discussed the recent arrests in Germany of far-Right extremists accused of plotting a coup, the nature of the Reichsbürger movement that is believed to be behind this conspiracy, and the German security response.


The EER podcast with Danny Citrinowicz, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council

The podcast discussed all aspects of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s revolutionary policies, from the hard power of militias and terrorism to the “soft” power of spreading its ideology through propaganda and disinformation.