While US intelligence and law enforcement agencies crack down on Russian so-called troll farms suspected of attempting electoral interference, farms are responding by adopting a wider variety of cryptoassets and “chain-hopping” techniques.
The American arrived on September 10 Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on four persons associated with Russia who were accused of destabilizing elections in the United States.
A recent report from a blockchain analysis company Elliptical said that criminals are using crypto to fund the production of fake news stories intended to influence voters – and hide their digital footprints.
In addition, criminals are rapidly expanding their use of crypto in a way that makes it significantly more difficult for law enforcement officials to target their global networks, per a recent paper released by the UK think tank on defense and security, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
Crypto exchanges “ are open to abuse because they can convert traceable cryptocurrency such as bitcoin into privacy coins that are currently extremely difficult to track (a process known as chain-hopping), ” the paper’s authors wrote.
Tom Robinson, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder of Elliptic, said the US agency has “listed 23 crypto addresses linked to [suspected troll farm managers surnamed] Andreyev and Lifshits.
That list can be found here.
“Nearly $ 1 million in cryptoassets went through these addresses between May 2017 and January 2019 – with transactions ending shortly after the November 2018 midterm elections.”
Of the $ 1 million, the lion’s share of the funds was transferred in bitcoin (BTC), which represented 64% of the funds, followed by ethereum (ETH) with 27% stake and zcash (ZEC) with 8%. The remaining 1% was split between dash (DASH), bitcoin SV (BSV) and litecoin (LTC), according to Elliptic data. However, the list does not include monero (XMR), the most popular privacy coin.
The company wrote:
Out of the 23 addresses used by the sanctioned individuals, at least 11 belong to cryptocurrency exchanges – as identified by Elliptic’s blockchain monitoring tools. In fact, one or more accounts at a single, well-known exchange received more than 96% of the $ 1 million worth of crypto involved. “
“Rather than making their own (non-hosted) wallets, Lifshits and Andreyev chose to transact through accounts on exchanges. They may have chosen to work this way because of the low know-your-customer standards and anti-money laundering controls in place at these exchanges – which implies a low risk of being identified through the use of these services, Said the company.