Cryptocurrencies have ever been in the eye of regulators and government agencies because of their core characteristics: pseudo-anonymity and the capability of using them for money laundering and terrorism funding. That is why some countries have been very harsh in their stance against bitcoin. And according to a new investigation carried out by the US Department of Justice, this is by no means an unjustified concern with Russia around.
According to new information released by the US Department of Justice, cryptocurrencies -specifically bitcoin- have been used for funding cybercriminal operations. In this case, it seems like Russia used bitcoin to fund hackers while avoiding detection by the authorities. These hackers were responsible for various covert cyber war operations that had to do mostly with promoting Russian interests and also attacking several sources that had data about a doping program that the Russian government has supported.
All there efforts were spearheaded from within an organization called the “GRU” (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff), where they managed the logistics of the whole operation. The agents also had to do with the hacking of the email servers of Hillary Clinton, the operation that breached the Democratic National Committee servers, among other high-level operations.
The indictment states that that:
The Conspirators funded the purchase of computer infrastructure for their hacking activity in part by “mining” bitcoin. Individuals and entities can mine bitcoin by allowing their computing power to be used to verify and record payments on the bitcoin public ledger, a service for which they are rewarded with freshly-minted bitcoin.
Also, the Russian agents used peer to peer exchanges to acquire bitcoins for the operation, using hard to track payment means as prepaid cars or other cryptocurrencies. They also enlisted the help of third-party party traders, a thing that contributed to maintain their anonymity.
Then the funds obtained through bitcoin mining and trading were used to get the necessary tools to carry the operations successfully, such as VPN networks, local servers and also domains; all of this while providing fake names.
This is one of the most scandalous cases ever that had bitcoin in the center of Russia financing an intelligence cyberwarfare operation. This could influence the long-sought regulation that many are waiting to jump into the cryptocurrency bandwagon.