- Crypto exchange Binance has quietly built up a research team of 150 people.
- Leading the team are top government agents who helped take down some of the biggest crypto criminals.
- They share why they decided to join Binance and how they can get a part in the under-the-radar team.
Tigran Gambaryan and Matthew Price Helped Government Crack Some of the Biggest Cryptocurrency Investigations in the removal of a massive child exploitation network known as Welcome to Videoto the investigation and prosecution of illegal bitcoin tumbling service Helix†
Some of those exploits will be: chronicled in an upcoming book, “Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency” by Andy Greenberg.
However, instead of taking it easy, Gambaryan and Price took on a new challenge to help Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchangestackle the crime.
The changing crypto landscape
As regulators from around the world approach the crypto industry, many of the largest exchanges are shifting their strategy by: step up lobbying efforts and securing licenses for regional hubs and operations†
Research is one area where Binance doubles down, with a team of 150 people. Last year, the exchange brought a number of keys accepted including Gambaryan as vice president of global intelligence and investigations and Price as senior director of investigations.
Both Gambaryan and Price gained their knowledge of crypto crime from the IRS. Gambaryan was the agency’s “go-to” crypto expert through his role as a detective, while Price worked as a special agent in the cybercrime criminal investigation unit. He also spent time as a targeting officer with the CIA.
“Everyone we’ve brought onto this team is our equivalent around the world,” Price said, referring to other recent hires such as Nils Andersen-Röed. from Europol†
“The company took the approach of, ‘Look, we take this really seriously. We don’t just want to protect our customers, protect our platform, but blockchain as a whole, because when we do that, it adds trust to the space,'” he added.
The team of former law enforcement officers and blockchain experts is working to identify and stop individuals attempting to take advantage of criminal resource technology.
“Child sexual exploitation is a good example,” said Price. “I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who doesn’t want to help with that.”
Other activities such as counter-terrorism and fraud, especially against vulnerable populations such as the elderly, are also activities they want to end.
“We’ve developed the techniques to identify and eliminate the worst of the worst,” Price and Gambaryan said. in a blog post† “We even led the investigations that focused on some of the same bad actors that the media insinuates that Binance is responsible for enabling.”
ahead of the game
Despite some challenges, the couple believe Binance is leading the way in investigations.
“As for the other exchanges, I think they’re starting to follow that model. I don’t think they’re quite where we are,” Price said. “And unfortunately, for them, I think the crypto research community is very small. Most of the good people have already been picked up.” There is a “massive exodus” from the government to the private sector, Gambaryan said.
Binance’s research team is already working with law enforcement and education partners in space.
The total volume of illegal transactions relative to the actual cryptocurrency transaction volumes is about 0.15%, according to data from Chainalysis†
Detect illegal transactions
“When I started my career, I started out in Baltimore and some of the drug money laundering or fraud cases that we worked on, we literally had to sit there and monitor neighborhoods like ‘The Wire’ and try to see people holding hands for cash” Price said. “Now I can sit in front of a computer and trace those transactions along the blockchain.”
In the past, Price and Gambaryan essentially had to “create their own blockchains” by recreating a cash flow based on bank data. Now that all of these transactions are publicly recorded on the blockchain, analytics tools can help researchers track the money faster.
“The crypto tracing is 10% of the time, the rest is knowing what else to do,” said Price.
At Binance, an investigation can be launched from internal work, where the agents see transactions from suspicious clusters, requests from law enforcement, and finally, requests from customers.
“The call I mentioned this morning was actually a financial customer who was a victim of theft,” said Price. “And we’ve worked to quickly identify where the money was. We were able to stop them, and we’re working with law enforcement to get that back to our client.”
Securing a role in the team
It is not necessary that these new hires come from a law enforcement background.
“Some of the best researchers in this space have been doing it for two or three years,” Gambaryan said.
Kids coming out of college may be just as well equipped for the role as a 25-year veteran of financial crime because they grew up with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, Price said.
“My perspective is that the two most important things for anyone in research are work ethic, you have to be willing to sit there and do the boring, mundane work that every researcher anywhere in the world has to do,” Gambaryan said. “And the other is intellectual curiosity.”