According to some classified documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency can locate any sender or receiver of Bitcoin from anywhere around the world. The Intercept reports that the documents further revealed that the agency’s OAKSTAR program worked on an urgent call targeting Bitcoin users back in 2013.
The intercept is a publication devoted to adversarial journalism and was founded by Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s disclosure of mass surveillance back in 2013.
The report seems to prove some conspiracy theories right. There have been extensive rumors and fantasies of existing spying in the booming digital currency. The fact that Bitcoin provides a nest for get-rich-quick spectators and offers discretions to financial transactions; it would be expected for the government to raise eyebrows.
Governments naturally have interests in the control and movement of money. The conspiracy theorists believed that there would be no way they would sit back and watch as they lose authority. And it seems like they were right.
How the NSA Managed
Well, according to additional documents supporting the expose, the NSA created a system for gathering, examining and processing raw digital traffic. They did this with the help of a program disguised as an anonymizing software VPN called the MONEYROCKET.
Bitcoin A Top Priority
The internal NSA reports that though the agency was interested in the surveillance of most of the competing Cryptocurrencies, bitcoin was the #1 priority.
But it was not just about tracking down users. The report further indicates that the whole OAKSTAR program went beyond analyzing public transaction ledgers, commonly known as Blockchain.
A supporting document further reveals that the agency went further and collected intimate computer user details. Passwords may have been obtained, Internet history examined, and unique device identifications gathered.
The report cites a memo sent to analysts on discussions to track IP addresses, timestamps and network ports as methods to identify Bitcoin targets
Wanted More Data
It did not stop there; the agency went ahead to verify user identification. A memo dated March 29 enquired whether analysts had validated and retained users. The memo exposes the surveillance power of the agency and ability to predict the technology used by Bitcoin in its operation in preparation to curb it. With the data collection tools on its hand and the kind of information available, putting a name to a Bitcoin user was very easy
Not Only Bitcoin
There have been proofs that the surveillance did not just target bitcoin. For example, Liberty reserve, bitcoin’s predecessor was subjected to the same monitoring and charges put up against it. Evidence against the Cryptocurrency is suspected to have been collected by the agency using the same tools and tactics as revealed in these document’s leaks.
The Cryptocurrency was then shut down and the founder arrested on charges of money laundering resulting in a 20 years jail sentence.
The surveillance of Cryptocurrencies is a cause for concern for those who value them for their anonymity and decentralization.