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U.S. Accuses Russia of Cyber Intrusion in 2016 Elections Using Bitcoin as Payment Instrument

On Friday, 13th July, the U.S. department of justice charged 12 Russian intelligence officers for cyber intrusion in the 2016 U.S. official elections. The intrusion activity initiated in April 2016, where the hackers started spreading the stolen files via online personas: DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, and tens of thousands of stolen documents were released, straining the party during election season. However, it was not until October 2016 that the government published its first formal statement about the matter. This has so far been the most detailed accusation by the American government of the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 elections.  

The dozen Russians used email scams and hostile software to hack computer networks and accounts, including Trump’s presidential rival Hillary Clinton’s, and bitcoin to fuel their operations. During a press briefing, the Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein had said;

In an effort to pay for their efforts around the world … the defendants paid for it with cryptocurrency. 

Because Bitcoin functions without any central authority, the ‘conspirators’ strategically made use of bitcoin to purchase servers, registering domains, and making payments in furtherance of hacking activity, which veiled their identities swiftly, but not for long. The indictment states;

Allowed the conspirators to avoid direct relations with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds.

The aforesaid was proven when the digital payments made to U.S. companies were traced back by the bitcoin mining operations. The indictment specifies the efforts of the ‘conspirators’ too, stating;

In addition to mining bitcoin, the Conspirators acquired bitcoin through a variety of means designed to obscure the origin of the funds. This included purchasing bitcoin through exchanges, moving funds through other digital currencies, and using pre-paid cards. They also enlisted the assistance of one or more third-party exchanges who facilitated layered transactions through digital currency exchange platforms providing heightened anonymity.

Although the act of cyber-meddling may apparently not have been as hostile as violence, but America shall make no mistake with recognizing this act of cold war as conflict.

Meanwhile, another conspiracy lands for the project to be carried out in order to launder money by Russia. Accusations in the indictment also state for them to have plot launder equivalent to $95,000 through a series of transactions, which were specifically designed to make profits off of the anonymity of cryptocurrencies in bitcoin.

The indictment takes foundation on former confidential report, released in January 2017, by several intelligence agencies, which inferred;

Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.

Friday’s indictment did not include any accusations that the Russian efforts were successful in influencing the election results, nor evidence that any of Mr. Trump’s counselors knowingly coordinated with the Russian campaign- a point to which the president and all his allies tethered the conspiracies to.

Having long questioned the findings of intelligence agencies, Mr. Trump has offered alternate scenarios for who might have carried out the hacking campaigns and called the investigation nothing but a “rigged witch hunt”

and the Russia collusion allegations shading his presidency “pure stupidity”.

Nevertheless, the investigation that indicted 28 Russian nationals has arraigned four Americans alongside, all of whom are former Trump advisers. These and further U.S. intelligence findings suggest for the Russian conspiracy to have been an attempt to tilt the election into Mr. Trump’s favor.

None of the charges stated for the advisers to have conspired with Russia; nevertheless, former National Security and Foreign Policy advisers, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, have been pleaded guilty for making false statements about their contacts with the Russians. Coincidentally, with the former Trump campaign chairman and deputy’s political consultancies taking place in Ukraine, the conspiracy amassed enough to imply money laundering charges upon the politicians too, and both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, are currently under investigation.

Malaika Iqbal

Young aspiring individual, writing what matters to the millennials. Contributes guest posts to BlockPublisher with industry news & emerging startups in the blockchain space. Email: editor.startups@blockpublisher.com

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