Russian intelligence agents used bitcoin to pay for crucial elements of a campaign to sway the 2016 election, according to a federal indictment released today. They allegedly laundered more than $95,000 in total through bitcoin.
Twelve hackers working for the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, hacked into the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the indictment says. It also explains that they used the controversial cryptocurrency to hide their identities as they leased servers in the US and Malaysia, registered website domains through which they released hacked information, and bought virtual private networks (VPNs) that obscured their identity.
The hackers bought bitcoin in various ways, including through peer-to-peer exchanges, using pre-paid credit cards, and using other digital currencies, the indictment says. This allowed them to launder Kremlin money across the world, including by leasing servers in Illinois and Arizona. These servers stored the hacked information.
They also mined their own bitcoin, using that money in several ways, including to pay a Romanian company to set up the website dcleaks.com via a payment processing company in the US, making it seem as if the site had been set up in America. They used the site to disseminate hacked information, falsely claiming that it had been set up by US hackers.