The United States government has had cryptocurrency under a microscope for some time now, with nearly every major government agency honing in on their piece of the puzzle. While much of the focus has been on the CFTC and SEC and their impact on potential trading, buying, and selling regulations, according to a newly leaked report from Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) has also taken interest in Bitcoin.
According to the classified documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has been hard at work since March 2013 to “track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins.” To achieve this, the NSA designed a data system for capturing and analyzing internet traffic from around the globe. The NSA was also exploiting an unspecified software program that was intended to provide users with anonymity. Unfortunately for many Bitcoin users, seeking anonymity backfired and resulted in their information falling into the hands of the NSA.
The NSA is also looking at other cryptocurrencies, but considers Bitcoin to be “#1 priority.” The NSA may also be investigating users beyond Bitcoin transactions, also gathering information on the user’s internet activity, passwords, and MAC address.
OAKSTAR is the codename of the NSA’s secret project aimed at “Bitcoin Targets.” OAKSTAR uses a program called MONKEYROCKET to gather the data from the Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Europe. The NSA created the programs because they believe that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being used to fund terrorism, money laundering, and other crimes.
Due to Bitcoin’s cryptographic design, it has become an attractive asset for criminals to hide their identity and move large sums of money around the world anonymously. Bitcoin uses a SHA-256 hash, which is part of SHA-2 cryptographic functions that were designed by the NSA themselves.
Since the leaked reports are from classified documents distributed in 2013, it is safe to say that the NSA likely has made major advancements in their ability to track Bitcoin users. Part of what has made Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies attractive to many, is due to its partially anonymous and decentralized design. Users that continue to be interested in those features may decide to look to Monero and other privacy coins to avoid detection by the NSA.