Snowden Leak Suggests NSA Is Extensively Tracking Bitcoin Users

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been reportedly monitoring the bitcoin blockchain with an eye on identifying users on the distributed network.

According to a report by the Intercept on Tuesday, the media outlet has obtained classified documents from the U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden which indicate bitcoin surveillance remains a top priority for the agency.

The news comes at a time when the U.S government has voiced concerns via lawmakers and law enforcement agencies over the illicit use of cryptocurrencies in terrorism financing and money laundering.

Documents further hint that the NSA’s agenda may go beyond just tracking the bitcoin public ledger with a target to locate users with the agency actively analyzing global internet traffic and using scraping softwares that offer anonymity to internet users.

For instance, one memo from the NSA, the report cited, suggested the agency has collected more private information such as bitcoin user passwords, internet activity and device identifiers.

According to the report, the NSA has been monitoring the internet activities of bitcoin users since 2013 through a program with codename as OAKSTAR. And yet the new leak suggested that with MONKEYROCKET, another sub-program under OAKSTAR, the NSA may be moving closer to pinpoint users who initiate a cryptocurrency transaction.

“SSG11 analysts have found value in the MONKEYROCKET access to help track down senders and receivers of bitcoin,” one memo reads.

Leaked documents also hinted that the NSA may have been using the XKeyScore system to investigate bitcoin users’ information – a powerful global internet monitoring system that was first exposed in 2013 when Snowden disclosed classified documents about the NSA’s surveillance activity. 

The latest leak shows that the agency has stored this information in a file called, “Provider user full.csv,” and passages detail analysts discussing identifying transaction timestamps and users’ internet address in bid to locate the targets. 

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