Bitcoin appears to be rising as a payment method of choice for spies across the world following a third report that intelligence agents used bitcoin to pay for hacking infrastructure.
Edward Snowden revealed last year he used bitcoin to pay for servers used during his whistleblowing operations. While in July the US Justice Department said the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff in Russia used bitcoin to undertake hacking operations.
Now a Reuters investigation reveals ex-NSA agents hired by the United Arabs Emirates’ version of NSA used bitcoin when buying servers for hacking operations.
“Using fake identities and Bitcoin, the Infrastructure department anonymously rented servers around the world. Those remote servers allowed Raven to launch attacks from a network of machines that cannot be traced back to the project,” Reuters says.
The American agents working on Project Raven in Abu Dhabi for UAE’s monarchy hacked into dissidents, rival leaders and journalists.
That included a British journalist, Rori Donaghy, as well as American citizens with one of the spies willing to name herself, Lori Stroud, stating: “Some days it was hard to swallow, like [when you target] a 16-year-old kid on Twitter.”
The cover was undertaking defensive operations to protect the monarchy from external hackers, but their real job was to hack into computers, phones, and other devices to spy on behalf of the Arab government.
Anyway, reuters provides the details far better than we can, but their use of bitcoin might indicate that they think other spies can’t quite trace btc.
As you know, bitcoin transactions are public, but what is shown is just an address made up of random numbers and letters. There clearly therefore are methods to ensure that address is not attributable.
One easy way might be to convert the btc into eth or other crypto and then send it back to btc or even leave it in eth.
The latter would be interesting because bitcoin sometime is used as a sort of category noun to mean cryptos. It may well be the case that they didn’t actually use btc but some other crypto.
On the other hand, bitcoin remains one of the most widely accepted crypto method of payment so they probably don’t have a crypto menu of choices to pay for servers.
If spies are using bitcoin, then it may be the case some spies are bitcoiners. Perhaps they even trade it. It is also clearly the case that cryptos are very secure.
Most importantly, considering both American spies and Russian spies are known to have used bitcoin, then there is obviously no back door. Nor is this the creation of an intelligence agency, or if it is, it wouldn’t matter because they haven’t hidden anything. Otherwise other spies would have found out and would not use btc for such risky operations.
Finally, any suggestion that bitcoin might be banned by the government is out of the window, at least in the west. That’s because if they do, it would put their own national security at a disadvantage as other spies would be using advanced tools, like crypto, while their own spies would have to find some other less convenient method of payment.
The suggestion they would ban it for all others while keeping it legal for themselves would also fall because you need some host to offer btc as a method of payment otherwise you can’t pay for servers with bitcoins.
Meaning that crypto is here to stay because it has at least one use case, whether for good or bad: to circumvent financial surveillance.