How the Bitcoin Blockchain Was Used to Track Down DNC Email Hackers



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Bitcoin Hillary

There are still people out there that believe that bitcoin transactions are anonymous. However, the Bitcoin blockchain can be used to trace cryptocurrency transactions to specific actors and money laundering networks. Last month’s indictments against the 12 suspected Russian individuals who hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers is a testament to how authorities can use the blockchain to track down offenders involved in scandalous cryptocurrency activities.

According to the indictment, the 12 suspects used bitcoin during the 2016 election period to buy the dcleaks.com domain, which was later on used to post emails pilfered from the Hillary Clinton campaign. The group also paid for the server in Malaysia that hosted the site using Bitcoin, and purchased a Virtual Private Network (VPN) using the same pool of funds.

The suspects, who allegedly worked for the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) unit, specialized in cyber-security operations that obtained invaluable documents through computer intrusions. They were apparently involved in large-scale operations designed to sway the U.S. presidential election, and hacked emails of volunteers and employees connected to the Hillary campaign, including its chairman’s.

Using the alias Guccifer 2.0, the Russian hackers contacted a U.S. reporter and gave him access to the stolen files on the dcleaks.com site, leading to widespread news coverage. The compromising information is believed to have had an indirect impact on the elections.

Tracing Transactions Back to the DNC Hacker Group Was Easy

Tracing the Guccifer 2.0 bitcoin transactions to the culprits was relatively easy as demonstrated by Tim Cotton, a blockchain developer. He was able to trace back the purchases to the GRU unit, which hacked DNC servers while using only publicly available information. By analyzing the blockchain, which underlies bitcoin, it is possible for law enforcement and users to access the public ledger and identify a node indicating where a purchase was made.

Data found about transactions that take place on cryptocurrency exchanges is especially invaluable for law enforcement as such services usually require personal information to allow users to transact. This information can be traced back to an individual and is much more reliable than bare numbers and letters.

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