Bitcoin Used by Russian Spies to Influence US Presidential Elections
The U.S.Department of Justice recently filed new charges against 12 Russian ‘intelligence agents’ or spies who hacked into the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign. According to this charge, these spies used cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to hide their identities and launder money. They managed to get private files of more than 300 people involved in the Clinton campaign including John Podesta who was the campaign chair.
The files further reveal that the hackers hacked emails and stole personal details of about 500,000 US voters with the goal of influencing decisions so that Donald Trump could come to power. It also alleges that the intelligence agents used cryptocurrency to buy servers, register domains and make payments for several other operations. The indictment shows that many transactions were handled by U.S. firms.
The report stated
To facilitate the purchase of infrastructure used in their hacking activity — including hacking into the computers of US persons and entities involved in the 2016 US presidential election and releasing the stolen documents — the defendants conspired to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
The report states that the 12 spies are members of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, known as GRU. The Wall Street Journal reported that the hackers managed to launder approximately $95,000 and used this cryptocurrency to register website domains, purchase computer servers and other hacking activities. They supposedly used this money to buy the domain dcleaks.com from a Romanian firm.
They used peer-to-peer exchanges to purchase Bitcoin, using other cryptocurrencies and prepaid cards. They probably used exchanges with weak security and those that don’t require personal information for transactions. The report emphasized the importance of Bitcoin in the hacking plan
The use of Bitcoin allowed the conspirators to avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds.
The agents also moved the funds to different wallets to reduce tracking, however, sometimes they were revealed. The report said,
On occasion, the conspirators facilitated Bitcoin payments using the same computers that they used to conduct their hacking activity.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that Trump was briefed on the case a few days earlier. Trump has called the Department of Justice’s probe a “witch hunt”.
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