Paranoiacs in the Bitcoin community have long speculated that the US government may have cracked the virtual currency’s privacy model, that once made it popular with the online drug trade. For example, over the years various people have suggested or wondered (sometimes as a joke) if the NSA actually created Bitcoin in an effort to trap criminals.
Unbelievably, these people were on to something. Sort of.
According to a cache of documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden published by The Intercept on Monday, the NSA has actually been attempting to track Bitcoin users since 2013. Bitcoin was the spy agency’s “#1 priority,” the documents show, though the agency was also targeting two other digital currencies, one of which was a Bitcoin predecessor called Liberty Reserve.
According to the outlet, the NSA leveraged its ability to scoop up huge amounts of internet traffic in an attempt to identify Bitcoin transactions and users. Documents suggest that passwords and device IDs were also collected.
The documents also suggest that the NSA may have used XKeyscore—a system the agency used to search the vast amounts of personal information like emails that it collected—to round out information on Bitcoin users. The core of the surveillance effort was a system codenamed MONKEYROCKET that involved a product (possibly a piece of software, possibly a VPN) described in documents as a “non-Western Internet anonymization service” with users in Iran in China. Read more from motherboard.vice.com…
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