DoJ Indicts 12 Russians For Crypto-aided Interference in US Elections
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a formal charge sheet against twelve Russian nationals with committing federal crimes. Specifically, the charge alleges that the Russian national tried to interfere in the 2016 US Presidential elections and the operation was funded by cryptocurrencies.
The DoJ has alleged that Russian government officials from two divisions of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) made use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC), obtained both through mining and other means, to instigate hacking into systems used by Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton’s Presidential election campaign, and US government’s election related departments and associated tech firms.
Furthermore, District of Columbia based grand jury as well as the FBI’s cyber teams in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and the National Security Division claim that the Russian officials used digital currencies to acquire accounts and necessary servers that facilitated illegal access to the relevant networks through spear phishing activity.
The charge sheet further states that the Russian officials obtained “thousands of stolen emails and documents” through the above described illegal means and released it to the public through the domain DCLeaks.com, while calling themselves as “American hacktivists.”
Notably, the DoJ report does not mention anything about the impact of these illegal interference on the outcome of the 2016 elections. One of the 11 criminal charges listed in the indictment is money laundering. The charge sheet accuses defendants of laundering an amount greater than $95,000 using cryptocurrencies in order to fund the hacking operation. The DoJ has specifically stated that revenue generated through Bitcoin mining was used to pay for the DCLeaks.com domain as well for conducting the phishing attack.
Notably, in May, the DoJ began its investigation related to the alleged Bitcoin and Ethereum price manipulation practices. The US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order for the creation of a new anti-crime task force that will concentrate on digital currency fraud.