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Why Crypto Is More Terrifying Than Seven Russian Spies For The US Justice Ministry

08 October 2018 16:12, UTC
Why Crypto Is More Terrifying Than Seven Russian Spies For The US Justice Ministry
By Oleg Koldayev

The US Justice Ministry accused seven Russian citizens of espionage activities. Moreover, to pay for goods and services related to illegal activities, the Russians used various digital coins.

According to American law enforcement officers, seven employees of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation (GRU) created a hacker network for hacking computer databases of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the American Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport, the Court of Arbitration in Sport,  the International Association of Athletics Federations, the International Federation of Association Football, the International Organization for the Chemical Weapons Ban and the Westinghouse Electric Company. Such a long list of victims is given not in vain. Below, it will be clear why.

The indictment includes such an important moment: “In the cases where the conspirators bought the hacker infrastructure, payments were made with the use of a complex transaction network, including operating accounts for fictive names, and usually, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin were used to hide their personality better."

As you can see, they did not manage to hide their personalities. The whole world knows the Russian spy-hackers now. Alexei MORENETS, Evgeniy SEREBRYAKOV, Ivan ERMAKOV, Artyom MALYSHEV, Dmitriy BADIN, Oleg SOTNIKOV, and Alexei MININ – here is the full list of accused persons. The use of anonymous virtual assets did not rescue them from danger. Moreover, American servants of Themis said that the Russian spies had used the same computers for digital coins transactions and hacker attacks. Incredible stupidity, isn’t it? Can the intelligence officers suffer from clinical idiotism?

And in general, if you read the entire 41-page indictment carefully, you get the feeling that you are dealing with some kind of information fake. For example, the document does not even indicate the dates of birth of the accused persons, not to mention the passport data. Although it says that the criminals have repeatedly crossed the borders of countries, including the United States. So, the details of their documents must have been mentioned in the databases of Border Guard. But for some reason, they are not in the indictment.

Their connection with GRU seems even more unusual. As mentioned above, this structure belongs to the military department; that is, it collects confidential information about armaments, defense and offensive infrastructure, and the field strength and disposition of forces. What does it have to do with the Anti-Doping Agency and the Lausanne Sports Arbitration? If the officials of the Foreign Intelligence Service were accused, it would still be possible to understand, but where does the GRU come from? The only organization from the list of victims that the military intelligence might be interested in is Westinghouse Electric, the manufacturer of radar systems and equipment for nuclear reactors.

Moreover, the connection of the accused people with the GRU is proved only by the fact that the IP addresses from which the attacks have been carried out are located on the territory of some military units and by the information that one of the defendants in the case supposedly has taken a taxi from the GRU office in Moscow to Sheremetyevo Airport.

Another important disadvantage of the indictment is that it is not clear what information the hackers stole. According to the investigation, the robbers sent out data gained during the attacks on anti-doping agencies to the Mass Media, which allowed the Russian side to make some loud statements. But this is not a legal fact, but only an assumption. We are not talking about a specific stolen document or published letters.

There are many such inconsistencies in the case, but does this mean that the US intelligence agencies are working unprofessionally?

Hardly so. Such criminal cases periodically arose in judicial practice. For example, the Dreyfus case in France or the Beilis case in Russia. The meaning of such a trial is not so much to prove the guilt of specific subjects in specific crimes but to express the attitude of the state to a particular phenomenon. Cases of Dreyfus and Beilis appeared in the era of the state anti-Semitism. They are united by the fact that none of the cases had sufficient evidence, but the sentences were sustained. Although they were canceled later, the goal was achieved. The state showed that it was with those who did not like the Jews.

The case of the Russian hackers illustrates a similar trend. On the one hand, the American authorities apprehend and accuse those who can be potentially dangerous, but at the same time possess some kind of exclusive knowledge useful for the state.

In recent years, the US intelligence services have apprehended, arrested, and even convicted nearly two dozen programmers of Russian origin. Each of them could know something - codes, passwords, infrastructure, etc.

On the other hand, such cases support public fears, which make it possible to manage people and public opinion effectively. In this particular case, two things that are potentially social irritants are mentioned: Russian hackers (well, as you understand, everything is clear: an old horror story abroad) and virtual currency.

The American authorities are really very afraid of strengthening the digital economy because it threatens their global financial domination. However, the society is on the alert for virtual assets too. And there is the explanation. The United States of America is an empire. Just like China and Russia. Such states are united not only by the force but also by the idea. The American idea is the firmness of the main criterion of success: money in exchange for initiative and loyalty. However, virtual values ​​mean a social initiative and the blockchain is based on this, they reject state loyalty as a relic of the past. This is why for the USA virtual currencies are even more dangerous than Russian hackers.

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