Cryptocurrency Used by Russian Hackers, US Department of Justice Claims

Bitcoin (BTC) and other digital coins were part of Russian intelligence agents’ efforts to hide their traces while attacking World Anti-Doping Agency and other entities, a US indictment has revealed.

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Kremlin-backed hackers working for Russia military intelligence (GRU) utilized cryptocurrency as part of their activities around the globe in an attempt to hide their links with the Russian state, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday. The department indicted seven GRU officials for trying to gain illegal access to computers, websites, and data systems of US citizens, agencies, and companies as well as international organizations.

The GRU agents were part of a wider network, revealed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands on Thursday. The three countries blamed Moscow for organizing large-scale hack attacks on bodies and individuals working on investigations against the Russian state.

The US authorities claimed the seven GRU agents received payments in virtual coins including Bitcoin (BTC), and partially funded their activities through mining.

“The conspirators used several dedicated email accounts to track basic bitcoin transaction information and to facilitate bitcoin payments to vendors. One of these dedicated accounts received hundreds of bitcoin payment requests from approximately 100 different email accounts,” the Department of Justice wrote in the indictment.

As most of the US victims were located in Pennsylvania, the Justice Department filed the indictment against the seven GRU officials in the Western District Court of Pennsylvania. According to the charge, hackers received cryptocurrency for developing infrastructure and a fake website of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“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.”

At that time, WADA, located in Canada, was investigating allegations of state-backed doping program for Russian athletes. Several of the investigators were US citizens.

According to the indictment, GRU agents targeted also US Anti-Doping Agency (USDA) as well as several international organizations including the global football body FIFA, the Court of Arbitration of Sport (TAS/CAS), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In July, US Department of Justice said that Russian spies received digital currencies as payments for their attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

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