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Election Hacking and the Roles of Russia and Cryptocurrency

The midterm elections are around the corner, and with close to zero evidence of election meddling from Russian hackers, the question on everybody’s mind is unchanged – are they gone for forever? The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD LinkedIn) experts are in agreement that you shouldn’t raise your hopes.

Indeed, the controversy that enveloped the 2016 Presidential election hacking ushered in drastic changes in governmental policy affecting international hackers. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the US is embarking on offensive cyber operations whose goal is to protect the integrity of the entire electoral process.

These efforts’ details are mostly classified, but it is believed to be part of a campaign by the Trump administration to establish a US cyber command that will address Russian hacking. This kind of technique is referred to as “persistent engagement” and experts say it reflects an important shift to a more comprehensive and aggressive stance in overcoming enemies online.

Although this policy change is undeniably a step in the right direction, a lot still believe that the United States must do more to prevent Russians from meddling in forthcoming elections. At present, the main area of vulnerability for the US is its knowledge of cryptocurrency.

Indictment filings by Robert Mueller reveal that Russian intelligence officers relied on bitcoin for the financial requirements of their operations while in the United States. Bitcoin’s huge advantage to regular currency is that it provides full anonymity to users aside from being largely unregulated.

Under the blanket of cryptocurrency, Russian hackers were able to pay for servers and domain names and use virtual private networks (VPNs) not needing any identification. It’s important to know that cryptocurrencies aren’t naturally illegal, but as with all technologies, like the Internet itself, they can be freely used for good or bad ends.

In the last few years, bitcoin and other blockchain technologies have been increasingly used in crime, terrorism, and espionage. The US has made taken bold actions against hackers, but with cryptocurrency, the enemies still get the chance to enlist third-party hackers to hatch their plot untraced. Experts in the field believe the U.S. is not ready to handle the worst possibilities.

When Russian hackers attacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), more than $95,000 was laundered to carry out the operation. The purpose was to becloud the agents’ Russian connection.

U.S. investigators successfully uncovered this detail with the use of cryptocurrency analysis software created by the private developer, 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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