The Scheme of Russian Hackers was Dependent on Bitcoin (BTC)
As per the indictment, the 12 Russian hackers indicted by the special counsel Robert Mueller utilized bitcoin to facilitate their scheme. The bitcoin transactions played a major role and contributed to the hackers getting caught.
The indictments against the 12 Russian intelligence officials allege that they operated a hacking scheme that included stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and top staffers to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Apart from this, the hackers also targeted into state and county Board of Elections websites.
Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, said in the indictment,
“To hide their connections to Russia and the Russian government, the Conspirators used false identities and made false statements about their identities. To further avoid detection, the Conspirators used a network of computers located across the world, including in the United States, and paid for this infrastructure using cryptocurrency.”
He further added,
“The hackers principally used bitcoin when purchasing servers, registering domains and otherwise making payments in furtherance of hacking activity. 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 hackers conspired to launder roughly $95,000 through cryptocurrency transactions to help facilitate the purchase of infrastructure which the hackers used to conduct their campaign. Bitcoin was possibly used because of its anonymity character.
Bitcoin transactions are added to the public ledger system Blockchain. The identity of parties is only represented by identifiers called bitcoin addresses. Hackers further hid their identity by using different e-mail addresses which often contained fictitious addresses and names.
Mueller pointed a few hints in the indictment which explains how the bitcoin transactions may have played a role in the hackers getting caught:
1. One of the bitcoin accounts used by the officials was used in 2015 to renew the registration of a domain name encoded in a malware agent that was later installed on the DNC’s network of servers.
2. The Russian nationals used bitcoin to lease the server used to administer the malware implanted on the DNC server network while leasing two additional servers using bitcoin to hack into the cloud network.
3. At times, the Russians made the bitcoin payments on the same computers they used to conduct their hacking campaign, according to the indictment.
4. The hackers used bitcoin to pay a Romanian company for the registration of the dcleaks.com domain, a site that housed some of the stolen emails. They also used bitcoin to lease a Malaysian server that hosted the website.
5. The Russians also allegedly used the funds in a bitcoin address to purchase a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, account to access the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account. @Guccifer_2 was the person that claimed to be the DNC hacker and was in touch with Trump confidant Roger Stone.
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