In a report seen and revealed by MarketWatch, the justice department has named seven Russian military officers in carrying out cyber attacks against the United States and funding the operation with Bitcoin. The indictment was filed back in July 2018 and only made public on October 3.
The GRU is accused of carrying out several cyberattacks
The accused behind the attacks were members of Russia’s powerful military intelligence agency, the main intelligence Directorate of the General Stuff (GRU). It consists of multiple units that are involved in large scale cyber criminal operations and foreign interventions, similar to the CIA and NSA which are involved in the same sort of operations.
The agency has previously carried staged releases of hacked documents and emails. Notable attacks include the hacking of the Democratic National committee’s computer server as well as Hillary Clinton’s employees emails. The agency was also accused of being behind hacking of the independent chemical agency which was testing the poisoning of a former GRU officer. The indictment also alleges that the same Russian operatives were behind the hacking into a nuclear power plant in Pittsburgh and the technology firm Westinghouse, a major supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine.
The Department of Justice claims all of these operations were funded using Bitcoin. Since many Bitcoin users believe Bitcoin masks their identity, the DOJ claims the accused operatives used it in order to evade scrutiny so as not to raise suspicion on the source of the funds and thus avoid direct relationships with financial institutions. The DOJ further claims that the popular cryptocurrency was also put into use by Russian cyber attackers during the hacking of the presidential elections of 2016.
GRU officers mined Bitcoin to fund hacking activities
The payments were processed by companies located in the US, the DOJ believes. In the indictment the DOJ also provides detailed insight on how the Russian operatives were able to fund their extensive cyber attacks for a long period using bitcoin. The earliest such attacks can be traced way back to 2014. Russians hackers mined Bitcoin to purchase the infrastructure and computer servers that would support their hacking activities.
Although there exists similarities between the accusations of the Russian officials and the Mueller investigation into election meddling, the DOJ says that the case didn’t stem from Mueller’s work.