Russia Used Bitcoin To Finance International Hacking Attacks
Russian hackers have been suspected to behind many cyber-attacks and security breaches in recent years. Recent reports suggest that the Russian government has been responsible for funding a group of hackers.
The Russians did not use fiat money but instead relied on an alternate source of funding through bitcoin mining. This was revealed in a recent indictment by the US Justice Department against seven Russian intelligence officers.
The indictment was for hacking anti-doping agencies all over the world. This was in retaliation to the accusations of Russian doping in various international sports events. To fund these efforts, the hacking group mined bitcoin.
The Justice Department
In a statement, the Justice Department said
The pool of bitcoin generated from the GRU's mining activity was used, for example, to pay a United States-based company to register the [phishing] domain wada-arna.org through a payment processing company located in the United States. The conspirators used the same funding structure—and in some cases, the very same pool of funds—to purchase key accounts, servers, and domains used in their anti-doping related hacking activity
This means that along with the hacking indictments, the Justice Department is also charging the seven Russians with laundering money to ensure their anonymity. Significant damage has been done as these hacking attacks were responsible for obtaining stolen medical information of 250 athletes and then releasing altered reports to the general public. This was aimed at discrediting clean athletes and clubbing them with athletes who cheat.
The hacking group known as Fancy Bear courted the attention of journalists worldwide and used them to release their altered medical files for general consumption. This was done by contacting them via Twitter. In total, records show that the group contacted 116 reporters and exchanged e-mails with 70 of them.
More Than Medical Files
This hacking campaign started back in 2014 and had a comprehensive list of targets. This included organizations that were based in four different countries: Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Switzerland. The main targets were the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the World Anti-Doping Agency, The Court of Arbitration for Sport, the International Association of Athletics Federations and FIFA.
However, the attacks were not limited to anti-doping agencies. The hackers also hit several unrelated targets. There was an attack on a Pennsylvania nuclear energy company, while a concerted effort was made against two organizations involved with chemical weapons. These were the Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory, which identified the chemical agent that was involved in several attacks in the UK and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
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