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Bitcoin Government Privacy

The NSA Worked To 'Track Down' Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal (theintercept.com) 60

An anonymous reader shares a report: Classified documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency worked urgently to target Bitcoin users around the world -- and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to "help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins," according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged NSA's ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.

Although the agency was interested in surveilling some competing cryptocurrencies, "Bitcoin is #1 priority," a March 15, 2013 internal NSA report stated. The documents indicate that "tracking down" Bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining Bitcoin's public transaction ledger, known as the Blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users' computers. The NSA collected some Bitcoin users' password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users' internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify "BITCOIN Targets."

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The NSA Worked To 'Track Down' Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal

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  • Only 4 out of 15? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gatfirls ( 1315141 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @01:33PM (#56291911)

    I think we can do better than that. When I come here I want the entire 1st page of articles to be about bitcoin.

  • is it me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @01:33PM (#56291913)

    or does there seem to be a concerted effort to stop crypto currencies before they become more of a thing

    • Used to be that the way to discover the perpetrators of crime or interrupt crime was to follow or stop the flow money.
      Bitcoin makes that a lot more difficult.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The article details how Bitcoin makes discovering criminals more easy.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        With all due respect - how the FUCK does it make it more difficult? Public Ledgers are like taking your bank statement, stripping off the part where it says your name, and posting it to the internet for the rest of time. ANY SINGLE identifiable transaction can then de-identify the whole record. Oh, its just this list of 1000 anonymous transactions involving drugs... and the one guy at the leftmost seat at the bar on Tuesday afternoon.

        In some ways, BitCoin is the devil (non-centralized banking). In some

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        For someone wanting to receive money via Bitcoin, it's easy to create an anonymous account, get Bitcoins deposited to that account. The hard part is getting the value converted into real money. That requires a broker. Then it becomes identifiable as to where the money came from. Usually they will be online. You would need a real-world currency cash transfer to be anonymous. Some convenience stores have ATM machines to do this.

        Sending money involves transferring money into a Bitcoin account, requiring a brok

    • It is you, well you and every other person on the internet who thinks bitcoin was shat out by jesus and anyone who says anything untoward is guilty of the highest orders of heresy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The easiest way to topple a country is to subvert its currency. No bloodshed or tanks required.

      It's a big reason we dedicate the Secret Service to preserving ours.

    • or does there seem to be a concerted effort to stop crypto currencies before they become more of a thing

      Probably.

      But I think an intelligence agency has other legitimate motives for trying to track down users of a pseudo-anonymous money transfer system.

    • there's been multiple reports from the current administration in America and even a few overseas where they've said they're trying to keep their hands off so they don't kill a nascent industry. Everybody knows crypto-currencies are being used mostly for illegal activity but they've been turning a blind eye in the hopes that they'll grow out of it like a phase and move on to more productive/better things.
      • It's a rather naive hope; to date the only use case where it offers any kind of meaningful advantage over other payment options is online trade of illicit goods and services. For anything where (pseudo-)anonymity isn't a high priority, the cons heavily outweigh the pros.
    • No that is you. It is just that crypto currencies are a buzz word so every article (good or bad) makes it to the front page (so to speak.) If this article seems bad to you then just take note that when crytpo currencies fall to page 3 their value will drop due to a significant amount of their value being derived from people buying them in a bigger fool scenario and every article that gets published only helps the buzz even if negative. It has to be extremely damming to actually have a significant negative e
  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @01:37PM (#56291937) Journal
    Just sayin. It's been well known and if somebody got in thinking that bitcoin was anonymous then they were fooling themselves.
    • Monero is for anonymous use.

      • by JeffSh ( 71237 )

        with a globally aware sigint full take system, NOTHING is anonymous.

        so long as their is signals, there will be intelligence. the only way around it is to create a protocol that is so noisy that the signal is obfuscated. even that is counterable though of course.

    • Just sayin. It's been well known and if somebody got in thinking that bitcoin was anonymous then they were fooling themselves.

      (sarc) But, but.... That's what they SAID it was in all the PR about BitCoin. Are you saying they LIED to me? (/sarc)

      I remember when the common story was about how BitCoin was anonymous, unregulated, and totally secure because it wasn't managed by some centralized government. Except for the last thing, none of it was true. Now that last item is up for debate as governments around the world do their best to regulate it.

    • thinking that bitcoin was anonymous then they were fooling themselves.

      ...and also completely ignoring the specs.

      By *design*, the whole "distributed trust" of bitcoin comes from the blockchain, a public ledger of which each (full) node on the bitcoin network has a full copy. What did you expect ?

      The point of the bitcoin protocole was never anonymity, it was always the absence of a central authority (in theory - some big mining pool are close to it).

      ---

      (yup, it uses cryptographic public key, instead of your actual real-world identity, so there some minimal level of pseudonymity

  • Is when there is a concerted effort to eliminate cash.

    They can track and do all the metrics they want on my debit purchases of chicken breasts, pasta and tomato paste.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @01:55PM (#56292109)
    it's pretty well established that bitcoin's being used for illegal activity (Drugs, money laundering, prostitution, etc, etc). It's also pretty well established that it's not hard to trace a bitcoin transaction and that once your name's tied to a wallet everything that wallet did leads back to you.

    The investigators are supposed to get results, and these would be easy results to get. So yeah, no kidding they targeted bitcoin users.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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