• Quote of the week

    ” I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives. ”
    — Leo Tolstoy

The NSA Worked to “Track Down” Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal

A mysterious data source provided the spy agency with a wealth of information to identify bitcoin holders.

Internet paranoiacs drawn to bitcoin have long indulged fantasies of American spies subverting the booming, controversial digital currency. Increasingly popular among get-rich-quick speculators, bitcoin started out as a high-minded project to make financial transactions public and mathematically verifiable — while also offering discretion. Governments, with a vested interest in controlling how money moves, would, some of bitcoin’s fierce advocates believed, naturally try and thwart the coming techno-libertarian financial order.

It turns out the conspiracy theorists were onto something. Classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the National Security Agency indeed 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 the 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.”

The agency appears to have wanted even more data: The March 29 memo raised the question of whether the data source validated its users, and suggested that the agency retained bitcoin information in a file named “Provider user full.csv.” It also suggested powerful search capabilities against bitcoin targets, hinting that the NSA may have been using its XKeyScore searching system, where the bitcoin information and wide range of other NSA data was cataloged, to enhance its information on bitcoin users. An NSA reference document indicated that the data source provided “user data such as billing information and Internet Protocol addresses.” With this sort of information in hand, putting a name to a given bitcoin user would be easy.

he NSA’s budding bitcoin spy operation looks to have been enabled by its unparalleled ability to siphon traffic from the physical cable connections that form the internet and ferry its traffic around the planet. As of 2013, the NSA’s bitcoin tracking was achieved through program code-named OAKSTAR, a collection of covert corporate partnerships enabling the agency to monitor communications, including by harvesting internet data as it traveled along fiber optic cables that undergird the internet.

Specifically, the NSA targeted bitcoin through MONKEYROCKET, a sub-program of OAKSTAR, which tapped network equipment to gather data from the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Asia, according to classified descriptions. As of spring 2013, MONKEYROCKET was “the sole source of SIGDEV for the BITCOIN Targets,” the March 29, 2013 NSA report stated, using the term for signals intelligence development, “SIGDEV,” to indicate the agency had no other way to surveil bitcoin users. The data obtained through MONKEYROCKET is described in the documents as “full take” surveillance, meaning the entirety of data passing through a network was examined and at least some entire data sessions were stored for later analysis.

At the same time, MONKEYROCKET is also described in the documents as a “non-Western Internet anonymization service” with a “significant user base” in Iran and China, with the program brought online in summer 2012. It is unclear what exactly this product was, but it would appear that it was promoted on the internet under false pretenses: The NSA notes that part of its “long-term strategy” for MONKEYROCKET was to “attract targets engaged in terrorism, [including] Al Qaida” toward using this “browsing product,” which “the NSA can then exploit.” The scope of the targeting would then expand beyond terrorists. Whatever this piece of software was, it functioned a privacy bait and switch, tricking bitcoin users into using a tool they thought would provide anonymity online but was actually funneling data directly to the NSA.

The hypothesis that the NSA would “launch an entire operation overseas under false pretenses” just to track targets is “pernicious,” said Matthew Green, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Such a practice could spread distrust of privacy software in general, particularly in areas like Iran where such tools are desperately needed by dissidents. This “feeds a narrative that the U.S. is untrustworthy,” said Green. “That worries me.”

The NSA declined to comment for this article. The Bitcoin Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization, could not immediately comment.

Source: The NSA Worked to “Track Down” Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal

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  • Famous Quotes In History

    “Today the path to total dictatorship in the United States can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by the Congress, the President, or the people….outwardly we have a Constitutional government. We have operating within our government and political system, another body representing another form of government, a bureaucratic elite which believes our Constitution is outmoded and is sure that it is the winning side…. All the strange developments in the foreign policy agreements may be traced to this group who are going to make us over to suit their pleasure…. This political action group has its own local political support organizations, its own pressure groups, its own vested interests, its foothold within our government, and its own propaganda apparatus.”

    quoted directly from UN sources. Senator William Jenner (1954)

     

    “Very soon, every American will be required to register their biological property (that’s you and your children) in a national system designed to keep track of the people and that will operate under the ancient system of pledging. By such methodology, we can compel people to submit to our agenda, which will affect our security as a charge back for our fiat paper currency. Every American will be forced to register or suffer being able to work and earn a living. They will be our chattels (property) and we will hold the security interest over them forever, by operation of the lawmerchant under the scheme of secured transactions. Americans, by unknowingly or unwittingly delivering the bills of lading (Birth Certificate) to us will be rendered bankrupt and insolvent, secured by their pledges. They will be stripped of their rights and given a commercial value designed to make us a profit and they will be none the wiser, for not one man in a million could ever figure our plans and, if by accident one or two should figure it out, we have in our arsenal plausible deniability. After all, this is the only logical way to fund government, by floating liens and debts to the registrants in the form of benefits and privileges. This will inevitably reap us huge profits beyond our wildest expectations and leave every American a contributor to this fraud, which we will call “Social Insurance.” Without realizing it, every American will unknowingly be our servant, however begrudgingly. The people will become helpless and without any hope for their redemption and we will employ the high office (presidency) of our dummy corporation(USA) to foment this plot against America.”

    -Colonel Edward Mandell House

     

    “Warburg’s revolutionary plan to get American Society to go to work for Wall Street was astonishingly simple. Even today,…academic theoreticians cover their blackboards with meaningless equations, and the general public struggles in bewildered confusion with inflation and the coming credit collapse, while the quite simple explanation of the problem goes undiscussed and almost entirely uncomprehended. The Federal Reserve System is a legal private monopoly of the money supply operated for the benefit of the few under the guise of protecting and promoting the public interest.–”

    Anthony Sutton, former Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace, and also Professor of Economics at California State University, Los Angeles.

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