Sean S. Costigan


Cryptocurrency, the underground economy, and the future of fiat currencies 

Cryptocurrency momentum is mounting. Tech evangelists and start up financial concerns around the globe are expanding investments in cryptocurrencies, with values now in the trillions of USD. Crypto proponents claim that cryptocurrencies are on the way to making national fiat currencies of limited significance, if not entirely obsolete. Proponents of digital finance (DeFi) are working toward this end by reengineering the global financial infrastructure to make financial services cheaper, faster, more secure, and more personalized. Banks, central banks, and international financial institutions have begun to recognize that cryptocurrency is not a novelty but a transformational invention. Currency debates in geopolitical discussions are shifting from which fiat currency may prevail in the competition to whether fiat currencies would survive. As these debates take place, cybercriminals have found another use for cryptocurrencies: breathing new life into previously low-impact ransomware. By 2021, ransomware was the cybercrime of the day, mentioned in national security policy documents and used to great effect against critical infrastructure, hospitals, and other crucial portions of society. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has again transformed the currency and national strategy debate: Can a “crypto back door” be employed that would successfully circumvent an economic sanctions regime?  This talk will examine the present and future state of cryptocurrencies, their use by states and by organized crime, with an eye towards future trendlines. 

Sean S. Costigan

Sean S. Costigan is the Director of ITL Security and a Professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. He is an expert in emerging security challenges and a sought after speaker on matters of technology, national security and foresight. His current research and teaching is on the nexus of cybersecurity and state policies. He is the lead author of NATO’s cybersecurity curriculum and is widely published in national security matters relating to information security and hybrid threats.In addition to his work for the Marshall Center, he is presently serving as the Senior Adviser to the NATO/PfPC Emerging Security Challenges Study Group, where he heads cybersecurity education efforts; Publisher of Defense Press; Senior Associate at the Security Governance Group, and an Associate at the consultancies of Vision Foresight Strategy and i-Intelligence.