The US State Department has begun offering cryptocurrency rewards to darknet whistleblowers in exchange for data on hackers deemed a threat to national security.
The Department of State ‘s Rewards for Justice (RJF) program now gives away awards of up to $ 10 million for «the identification or location of anyone who, acting under the direction or control of a foreign government, engages in malicious cyberattacks against critical US infrastructure. » Accordingly, in this case, government officials will also use digital assets.
Note that the use of cryptocurrencies by government officials seems unusual, since they often criticize digital assets. As a last example of this, we can cite the words of the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russia, Sergei Shvetsov.
In an interview with Reuters last week, he called BTC a «tech pyramid scheme.» This was followed by a quote that clearly reflects the position of the state in relation to coins.
Therefore, buying the same bitcoin, a person enters a minefield, where, besides himself, he has no one to rely on, and no one can protect him. We also tell the citizens about this that there is no need to go where you are not under the protection of the Russian Federation, where your money will simply be taken away, and you will not be able to do anything about it.
How cryptocurrencies are received
According to Decrypt, the program itself has been operating since 1984. During this time, the US government has paid about $ 150 million to more than a hundred people who «provided useful information to arrest terrorists or prevent terrorist attacks on a global scale. «
In addition to combating ransomware, the program also addresses other important security problems of the country such as terrorist financing, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and North Korea’s initiatives. “Ransomware” in this context refers to malicious code that is injected into a computer through unauthorized access for targeted harm.
There are enough examples of the introduction of malware to obtain a ransom in digital coins. For example, in the summer of 2020, COVID-19 researchers from the University of California fell victim to hackers. The files on their system were blocked by ill-wishers. As a result, representatives of the institution were forced to pay 116 bitcoins for restoring the operation of all platforms and removing encryption. Read more about this story in a separate article.
Erez Liebermann, a former US Justice Department prosecutor for cybercrimes, said RJF’s new cryptocurrency reward initiative was anticipated. Here is a quote from her.
It is impossible to imagine a government not using cryptocurrency to pay for undercover informants or other sources.
There are reasons for this: cryptocurrencies are pseudo-anonymous, in addition, they can be quickly sent to any address, in order to then get access to coins almost anywhere in the world where there is an Internet. Whistleblowers value their anonymity and security above all else, so using digital assets as a reward can attract more individuals to disclose information useful to government.
In addition, the problem of combating cybercrime has become especially discussed in the United States this year. It’s all about the recent hacker attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and the largest meat producer JBS. Recall that in May, the DarkSide ransomware group stole more than $ 90 million from the American company Colonial Pipeline.
A month later, JBS factories, which process about one- fifth of America’s meat products, were also attacked by cybercriminals. As a result, after the attack, the company was forced to pay the hackers $ 11 million in ransom. Following this high-profile news, the Department of Justice raised the threat from hackers to a level comparable to terrorism.
We think this situation seems funny. On the one hand, there are criminals who demand and receive ransoms in cryptocurrency. At the same time, states also use digital assets, in fact using the same features that are so popular with fraudsters. This means that we can conclude that the unambiguous criticism of coins is not fair. In the end, it all comes down to who and for what purpose will use blockchain-based assets.