DOJ Indicts 12 Russian Intelligence of Maligning Clinton Campaign with Cryptos and Hacking
In a much-awaited indictment, the Department of Justice has found that 12 Russian nationals guilty of maligning Presidential candidate Clinton’s in the 2016 US Elections. The individuals involved in the crimes were finally identified as members of the Main Intelligence Directorate at the time of the attack.
According to the DoJ, “To avoid detection, defendants used false identities while using a network of computers located around the world, including the United States, paid for with cryptocurrency through mining Bitcoin and other means intended to obscure the origin of the funds.”
The investigations have identified that the 12 nationals were members of the Unit 26165 and Unit 74455, at the Russian government’s premier intelligence bureau called as the Main Intelligence Directorate.
The investigations found that the Unit 26165 had used a method known as ‘spear-phishing’ to intrude accounts of members of the Democratic Party campaigning for Clinton. Upon infiltrating the network, they stole the usernames and passwords of these accounts. They used the stolen information to hack computers as well as steal more emails as well as different types of documents. The DoJ has found that Unit 26165 and the Unit 74455 then collaborated to leak the documents by purchasing a domain and through other online activities.
Unit 74455 was also responsible for hacking systems of the state election boards, as well as the as the secretaries of the State. The accounts of all organizations in private such as software suppliers and other technology companies were also hacked prior to the elections.
The bottom line of all these activities was that all activities were funded by bitcoin and alternate coins. These funds were raised through crypto mining and thus ensured the Russian officers remained anonymous throughout the period of the activities.
The DoJ said, “This funding structure supported their efforts to buy key accounts, servers, and domains.”
Crypto mining Key to obscuring the origin of funds
The investigations have successfully identified the elaborate, strategic plan adopted by the Russian Intelligence to penetrate and manipulate the US election campaign. The indictment issued on 11 counts on charges of criminal conspiracy, for identity theft and aggravated, conspiring to launder money with cryptocurrency and committing an offense against the United States Government. The indictment found that after the hackers had stolen the documents from the government, it set up a domain named deleaks.com and used a leased VP server bought from a cryptocurrency service. This then allowed them to create an illegal website and used the URL to spear phish the members of the Clinton campaign.
Throughout the exploits, the organization claimed to be a group of hackers, and they were Americans. Their releases received over 1 million in just page views. However, they were shut down by March 2017.
Hence, the Russian military successfully used cryptocurrencies and the decentralized database and the anonymity the funds provided to spearhead a campaign to malign the US presidential elections. The success of these intelligence officers was however short-lived as the FBI, and its long arm was eventually successful in identifying the nefarious activities.