Bitcoin Espionage: US Grand Jury Indicts Russian Hackers of Illegal Covert Operations
A U.S grand jury has indicted a group of Russian Operatives on charges of criminal cyber activities funded with Bitcoin. This is the latest against foreign elements using the anonymity of cryptocurrencies to support illegal operations in the US.
The Grand Jury Indictment
According to documents released by a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a grand jury sitting in the state of Pennsylvania has indicted some Russian Intelligence operatives on counts of criminal cyber intrusion, influence and disinformation campaigns.
Going further, the indictment names members of the Russian intelligence agency – the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU). The documents specifically names and charges Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov and Alexey Valerevich Minin as members of the group.
The charges include gaining unauthorized access to computer systems of various entities including the US Anti-Doping Agency, a nuclear energy company and an organization investigating the use of chemical weapons.
Coupled with other details given of the group’s activities, the document states that to avoid detection of law enforcement agencies, the group relied on the perceived anonymity offered by cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to purchase hacking infrastructure.
The indictment reads in part:
Although the conspirators caused transactions to be conducted in a variety of currencies, including U.S. dollars, they 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 indictment also claims that the group mined bitcoins to generate funds to support illegal operations.
Russians Using Bitcoin for Illegal Covert Operations
This is the latest US indictment linking criminal activities of Russian Operatives to Bitcoin. Earlier in the year, the US DOJ released details of an indictment against members of the same GRU Group.
As reported by EWN, the foreign agents were accused of funding their criminal cyber operations with mined BTC. In this instance, the cyber activity targeted the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections. According to court documents, the agents hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Due to the anonymity offered by cryptocurrencies, it is par for the course that criminally minded entities will consider them a suitable means to raise funds and to effect money transfers.