In a revelation that should come as no surprise, the head of the CIA confirmed that the intelligence agency has several projects related to cryptocurrencies.
Rumors – often not quite serious – have long circulated that anonymous creators of the leading cryptocurrency bitcoin could have ties to the intelligence community, while a more common feeling among cryptocurrency fans is that the U.S. government is lurking in the background, waiting to flex its muscles over the entire shebang. however as marked by the motherboard, on Monday, CIA Director William Burns characterized the agency’s engagement in the presence of those present Summit of Wall Street Journal CEOs as relatively recent.
“This is something I inherited,” Burns told the audience. “My predecessor started this, but he launched a number of different projects focused on cryptocurrencies and trying to look at the consequences of the second and third tier and help our colleagues in other parts of the US government provide solid intelligence and what we see.”
The fact that the CIA is interested is the opposite of the shocking, whatever anyone thinks about the libertarian ethos of the cryptocurrency world. After all, cryptography, on which the blockchain technology that drives cryptocurrencies is based, has always been of great interest military and intelligence community. This is the key to preserving one’s own operations as well acquiring intelligence to opponents. The curious eyes of the nation’s spies no doubt watched the cryptocurrency explode from niche status into a sort of global, pseudo-anonymous shadow financial network.
Internal Documents of the National Security Agency from 2013, which was leaked by Edward Snowden, showed that the “search” of users bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were one of the agency’s top priorities, raising concerns that NSA data was being secretly used in prosecutions such as the one against Ross Silkrich Silk Road King (who The FBI has denied it). Cryptocurrency is a valuable tool for actors the CIA could help track such ransomware gangs that can cause chaos in large institutions i targeting infrastructure—Which are often based abroad and is sometimes suspected of being tied to the actors of the nation-state. Ransomware is a type of malware that maliciously encrypts file systems to be irreversible without knowledge of a specific cryptographic key, with the operator typically requiring the victim to pay a ransom in cryptocurrency to regain access to the target system.
For example, a May 2021 cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline managed to cause gas shortages ia less panic across the east coast. The gang that infected the pipeline operator’s systems is believed to be ransomware be based in Russia. The attack was at least partly the result decades of negligence when it comes to cybersecurity infrastructure, the feds are suddenly paying much more attention. The U.S. military Cyber Command recently revealed that it took over unspecified offensive action against ransomware gangs targeting American companies, which raises concerns that it is militarizing the response to cybercrime.
Burns specifically mentioned ransomware during his speech at the conference, saying that cryptocurrency is one of the ways to identify malicious actors who otherwise hid their traces.
Cryptocurrency could have a huge impact on everything from attacks to ransomware, as you mentioned, Burns told the audience. “Because one way to get rid of ransomware attacks and deter them is to be able to reach the financial networks that use many of these criminal networks, and that includes the issue of digital currencies.”
As Motherboard noted, cryptocurrency fans on Twitter warned of Burns’ comments in a tweet from far right financial blog ZeroHedge, a perennial source of alarmist moves and factually suspicious information, he took the opportunity to measure himself.
Most didn’t seem very worried. Crypto Cobain, a Twitter account with over 530,000 followers, tweeted a joke speculating on which projects they may be CIA operations. Other bitcoin promoter named Spencer Schiff claimed that if the CIA invented bitcoin, that wouldn’t seriously affect his views on him, because the agency had obviously lost control of him. Other Twitter users used these remarks as a basis for attacks on crypto projects they did not like, suggesting that they were CIA projects. Several conspiracy-oriented users have come up with the idea that the CIA uses bitcoin or other digital currencies for financing black projects.
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