So much for the anonymity of cryptocurrencies, which was always oversold. More worrisome, other intelligence agencies are using information the NSA sweeps up to make criminal cases. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
During his 2015 trial, Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht’s defense attorneys raised questions about the government’s case that, although they were ultimately disregarded by the jury, have continued to bother crypto users with an affinity for so-called “conspiracy theories.” They pointed out vagaries in the FBI’s account of its years-long pursuit of Ulbricht, and questioned whether the bureau had truly discovered Ulbricht’s involvement on its own, or whether it had help from other deep state elements, namely the National Security Agency.
Of course, the judge, who eventually sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison without the possibility of parole, refused to entertain their argument. But if they were correct, it would mean that the government’s whole case was built on evidence that was ultimately inadmissible.
As it turns out, Ulbricht’s lawyers were on to something.
In a blockbuster report published Tuesday in the Intercept, reporter Sam Biddle cited several documents included in the massive cache of stolen NSA documents that showed that the agency has been tracking bitcoin users since 2013, and has potentially been funneling some of this information to other federal agencies. Or, as Biddle puts it, maybe the conspiracy theorists were right.
It turns out the conspiracy theorists were onto something. Classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the National Security Agency indeed worked urgently to target Bitcoin users around the world – and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to “help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins,” according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged the NSA’s ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.
Using its ability to siphon data directly from the fiber-optic cables, the NSA managed to develop a system for tracing transactions that went well beyond simple blockchain analysis. The agency relied on a program called MONKEYROCKET, a sham Internet-anonymizing service that, according to the documents, was primarily deployed in Asia, Africa and South America with the intention of thwarting terrorists.
The documents indicate that “tracking down” Bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining Bitcoin’s public transaction ledger, known as the Blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users’ computers.
The NSA collected some Bitcoin users’ password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users’ internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify “BITCOIN Targets.”
To continue reading: NSA Has Been Tracking Bitcoin Users Since 2013, New Snowden Documents Reveal