U.S. DoJ Charges 12 Russian Officials with Bitcoin-Funded Elections ‘Interference’

News and Analysis

According to a 29-page document released from the U.S. Department of Justice Friday, July 13, a dozen of Russian operatives were revealed to have used Bitcoin heavily to fund the DCLeaks operations and propaganda campaign.

As reported by Forbes, officers from two units of the Russian government’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) are accused of stealing information on 500,000 voters by illegally accessing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s computers and tricking a number of close aides to then-Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton into handing over access to the information.

A grand jury in the District of Columbia, along with the FBI’s cyber teams in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and the National Security Division allege that the officials used cryptocurrency in order to buy accounts and servers that allowed them to illegally access the associated networks through a spearphishing campaign.

The GRU operatives allegedly then obtained “thousands of stolen emails and documents” that they released through the domain DCLeaks.com while promoting themselves as “American hacktivists.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein explained the role cryptocurrency played in the alleged conspiracy.

“In an effort to conceal their connections to Russia, the defendants used a network of computers located around the world, and paid for it using cryptocurrency.”

In total, eleven counts are listed in the documents, with the tenth, conspiracy to launder money, providing the most detail into how “cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin” were allegedly used by the Russian officers.

While a number of currencies are reported to have been used, in the laundering of more than $95,000 the alleged conspirators “principally used bitcoin when purchasing servers, registering domains, and otherwise making payments in furtherance of hacking activity,” according to the document.

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