- A recent indictment published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accuses seven alleged Russian spies of using crypto for their schemes
- U.S. officials have been able to trace the payment made through cryptocurrency
- Three of the seven alleged Russian intelligence agents were previously charged with interfering the 2016 U.S. presidential election
The U.S. Department of Justice issued an indictment on October 3rd charging seven alleged Russian intelligence agents with using crypto as part of a broad scheme of “influence and disinformation.”
Anti-doping controls targeted
The alleged members of the Russian intelligence agency have been accused in the indictment of hacking into computer networks operated by anti-doping and sporting officials. The agents reportedly used cryptocurrencies to hide their financial tracks; however, bitcoin was the only crypto named directly in the indictment:
“In those instances where conspirators purchased hacking infrastructure, payments were made using a complex web of transactions involving operational accounts in fictitious names and typically utilized cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, to further mask their identities and conduct.”
In the report, U.S. officials stated that despite the conspirators having a variety of currencies which included U.S. dollars, they primarily used bitcoin to make purchases of servers and register domains.
Payments traced to US companies
Using bitcoin allowed the accomplices to avoid direct contact with the regular financial institutions, hence avoiding the risk of revealing their source of funds and real identities. The payments they made were traced to U.S.-based companies.
The publication also adds that the alleged Russian intelligence agents mined bitcoin to generate funds:
“To facilitate the purchase of infrastructure used in their hacking activity—targeting anti-doping and other sports-related organizations and releasing the stolen documents—defendants … together with conspirators known and unknown, conspired to launder money through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”
However, as the indictment shows, investigators were successful in tracking the machines that initiated the bitcoin transactions.
Although it may not be related, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s national security division, John Demers, said that three of the defendants were previously charged to have an affiliation with the issue of Russian interference that occurred during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. At that time, the conspirators were charged with using crypto to facilitate and fund those efforts.