According to a document released from the US Department of Justice today, multiple Russian operatives were revealed to have used bitcoin heavily to fund the DCLeaks operations and propaganda campaign.

Background

DCLeaks is a website that was registered in April 2016 and established as active at some point June 2016. The primary purpose of the website was to leak confidential emails from various prominent figures involved in the 2016 US Presidential Campaign.

In specific, more than 150,000 private emails were leaked and published from the Hilary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. Other targets include but are not limited to four-star General Philip Breedlove2016 campaign staff of Arizona Senator John McCain and George Soros' Open Society Foundation.

Latest document reveals DCLeaks operations paid for in bitcoin

A document published today from the United States Department of Justice reveals that multiple Russian intelligence agents had actively used bitcoin to fuel the operations behind the DCLeaks propaganda campaign.

The reasons for doing are framed as follows by the DoJ publishers:

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.

Paragraph 58, Page 22

The specific phrasing of "the use of bitcoin allowed..." may have been structured to fuel for future attempted regulatory efforts against bitcoin from US legislators. We are already seeing political representatives from the US weighing in on the story as such.

The Russian intelligence agents took extra measures in an attempt to retain their anonymity. For example, they used hundreds of different email accounts to conduct the purchases as well as fictitious names and addresses to further obscure their identities.

It was also stated that the agents "enlisted the assistance of one or more third-party exchangers who facilitated layered transactions through digital currency exchange platforms providing heightened anonymity". Breaking down this quote into common terminology, it appears that the agents employed the use of a mixing service to further obfuscate their paper trail.

The document further states that "the Conspirators funded the purchase of computer infrastructure for their hacking activity in part by "mining" bitcoins". The infrastructure prerequisites to mine bitcoins in the first place must have required a significant investment in terms of time, resources and expertise from the Russian operatives.

While appearing cautious in some instances, the operatives also made amateur mistakes when attempting to transact the bitcoin anonymously. For example,the same bitcoin address was used for multiple transactions. More specifically, it was used for the purchase of several servers and domains used in the various spearphishing operations. Another bitcoin address was also used for multiple transactions, namely the purchase of a VPN account as well as the Malaysian server that hosted the DCLeaks website (pages 23, 24).

It reads as a strange series of events when the indicted Russian operatives had the expertise to set up their own bitcoin mining operation and utilize mixing services to remain anonymous on one hand, but then made simple privacy mistakes such as re-using the same bitcoin address for multiple transactions. Time may reveal another reading of the events.

The Russian operatives may have benefited from a quick read-through of Crypto Insider's guide to using bitcoin privately.

Featured image from David Werbrouck on Unsplash

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Editor at Crypto Insider. Likes decentralization, fungibility and BIPs. Dislikes red tape, corporate stuffiness and oxidation

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