United States investigators have found that an influence and disinformation campaign used cryptocurrency to avoid direct contact with traditional financial firms. Surprisingly, Russian intelligence personnel has once again been caught up in the scheme.
To drive the campaign, information was hacked from computers by persons believed to be Russian intelligence spies. The spies purchased hacking equipment and paid for them using cryptocurrency, they also used fake names and online infrastructure to hide their identity.
The investigators believe that “Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Artem Andreveyich Malyshev, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov and Alexey Valerevich Minin” who are members of the (GRU) main intelligence unit in Russia, violated U.S laws by hacking into computers and stole sensitive information. The computers belonged to sports and anti-doping officials.
The fished information was publicized by the GRU as part of a related “influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine the legitimate interests of the victims, further Russian interest, retaliate against Russia’s detractors and sway public opinion in Russia’s favor,” noted United States intelligence in an indictment filed at the district court in western district of Pennsylvania.
Part of the cryptocurrency used by the Russian spies was generated through bitcoin mining activities to facilitate the payments of equipment and services.
On one occasion, an account was requested to transfer 0.012684 bitcoin to a particular bitcoin address. A few minutes later, a similar transaction was added on the bitcoin blockchain. Investigators have unearthed that the crypto payments were initiated from the same computer used to forcefully extract information from computers.
By using virtual currencies like bitcoin, the hackers were able to evade the eye of banks and other financial institutions which could have made it much easier to pin the hacking on Russian intelligence.
Coincidentally, some of the indicted spies also feature conspicuously on the case where Russian spies are believed to have interfered with the presidential election in the United States.
Although the influence and disinformation campaign used cryptocurrency particularly bitcoin, do you think it’s hard for criminals to hide their transactions on public blockchains especially bitcoin?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.