U.S. Indicts Seven Russian Agents Who Used Bitcoin To Fund Illegal Covert Operations

A U.S. grand jury has filed charges against seven alleged Russian intelligence agents who used Bitcoin to operate illegal cyber activities.

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A U.S. grand jury has filed charges against seven alleged Russian intelligence agents who used Bitcoin to operate illegal cyber activities.

Suspects indicted on criminal cyber intrusion, influence and disinformation campaigns

On October 3, The U.S. Department of Justice charged seven officers from Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) for hacking and disinformation operations, using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to fund their campaign.

The indictment was filed by the grand jury at the Western District of Pennsylvania, following news that 12 Russian operatives were indicted in July for affecting the 2016 elections.

The operatives indicted in July were accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign over a 4-year span, from 2014 to May 2018, using Bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies to hide their financial activities.

The DOJ says the team of Russian nationals behind the attack, known as Fancy Bear, were;

  • Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets
  • Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov
  • Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov
  • Artem Andreveyich Malyshev
  • Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin
  • Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov
  • Alexey Valerevich Minin

They stand accused of breaching computer networks used by anti-doping and sports officials. They also allegedly accessed computer networks belonging to agencies involved in investigating charges against Russia for the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The indictment alleges that the team purchased hacking infrastructure and concealed their payments by making use of a complex web of transactions involving operational accounts in fictitious names.

Even though the group made use of fiat currencies like U.S. Dollars, the document reiterated that Bitcoin was the primary payment vehicle by the hackers, used in purchasing servers, registering a domain and the procurement of other hacking materials.

The use of Bitcoin made it possible for them to avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and the sources of their funds.

The DOJ also stated that the conspirators made use of numerous dedicated email accounts to track basic bitcoin transaction information and to facilitate payments to vendors.

One such account was able to receive hundreds of bitcoin payment requests from approximately 100 different email accounts.

The DOJ believes it has proof that the hackers were able to fund the purchase of the computing infrastructure by taking part in Bitcoin mining. They paid a U.S.-based company to register the domain wada-arna.org through a payment processing company located in the U.S.

Back in July, the DOJ in its document indicting 12 Russian operatives stated that cryptocurrencies were mined by the group to fund the hack into computer networks of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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