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Election Hacking and the Roles of Russia and Cryptocurrency

With the midterm elections almost here and little to no indications of election involvement of Russian hackers, the question sticks on everyone’s mind – is this really the end? The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD LinkedIn) experts are in agreement that you shouldn’t raise your hopes.

The controversy related to the 2016 Presidential election hacking has indeed brought about key changes in the government’s policy against foreign-based hackers. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the US is taking on offensive cyber operations in the defense of the credibility of the electoral process.

The details of this project are mainly classified, but it said to be part of the Trump administration’s efforts to create a US cyber command whose main target is Russian hackers. This type of tactic is called “persistent engagement” and experts opine it demonstrates a crucial shift to a more encompassing and aggressive approach against online adversaries.

Without a doubt, this change of policy is a step in the right direction, but the prevailing sentiment is that the United States needs to do more to stop Russia from meddling in succeeding elections. Currently, the US’ main weakness lies in its understanding of cryptocurrency.

Indictment filings by Robert Mueller show that Russian hackers operated in the United States using bitcoin. The advantage of bitcoin, in contrast to conventional financial institutions, is that it lets users remain anonymous and is subject to minimal regulation.

Russian hackers were free to purchase domain names, rent servers and use virtual private networks (VPNs) without any form of identification, all under the mantle of cryptocurrency,With the cover provided by cryptocurrency, Russian hackers freely rented servers, bought domain names, and utilized virtual private networks (VPNs) not providing identification of any kind. It must be known that cryptocurrency isn’t inherently illicit, but it can be used in beneficial or harmful ways just like any other technology, such as the Internet itself.

Recently, bitcoin and other blockchain technologies have been massively used by outlaws, including terrorists and spies. Although the US has made big steps in fighting hackers directly, cryptocurrency equips the enemies the chance to fund third-party hackers undiscovered. Professionals in the field agree that the U.S. is unprepared to face the worst eventuality.

When Russian hackers attacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), more than $95,000 was laundered to carry out the operation. This was meant to hide the agents’ links to Russia.

The U.S. government was able to detect this with cryptocurrency analysis software developed by the private firm, Elliptic. Although most of the information recorded in Bitcoin ledgers is anonymous, there remained enough of a trail that allowed investigators to identify the perpetrators.

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