The US National Security Agency (NSA) is reportedly able to locate senders and receivers of Bitcoin around the world, as classified documents provided by Edward Snowden reveal, The Intercept reports March 20.
The sources used for this article were disclosed to The Intercept, a publication dedicated to ‘adversarial journalism’ founded by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill following Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass reconnaissance in 2013.
The NSA managed this by creating a system for harvesting, analyzing, and processing raw global internet traffic using a program disguised as a popular anonymizing software, according to other documents dating March 2013.
OAKSTAR and MONKEYROCKET
Though the agency was interested in monitoring some competing cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin (“a decentralized digital currency system, wherein the units are known as Bitcoin or BTC”) was its primary target.
Tracking was performed by means of a secret internet surveillance program under the code name OAKSTAR, which represents a range of covert corporate partnerships that enabled the agency to monitor communications and pull data directly from the fiber optic connections that form the internet undergird.
A VPN-like service called MONKEYROCKET, a subprogram of OAKSTAR, played a crucial role in identifying Bitcoin users. Instead of hiding user data, MONKEYROCKET tapped network equipment to obtain data from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America.
In the NSA documents, MONKEYROCKET is also described as a “non-Western internet anonymization service in support of counter-terrorism” launched in summer 2012.
“Currently there are approximately 16,000 registered users, and the site is generating about 2,000 events per day… Iran and China are two of the countries with a significant user base,” stated the report.
MONKEYROCKET is governed primarily by the Executive Order 12333, which extends powers of U.S. intelligence agencies when investigating U.S. citizens…