Russian intelligence agencies were hit by a hack attack and robbed of some bitcoins that were immediately sent to Ukrainian organizations as economic support for Russia’s invasion.
The most interesting part of the story is that the hacked Russian addresses were previously the focus of a certain accusation.
Let’s look at the details of the affair together.
Bitcoin hack: BTC stolen by Russian intelligence services
A very curious affair involving an anonymous user and Russian intelligence agencies.
An anonymous user pulled off a masterstroke by stealing several BTC from a number of Russian intelligence agencies, such as the General Directorate for Military Information (GRU), the International Intelligence Service (SVR), and the Federal Security Service (FSB), and donating all the funds to Ukrainian humanitarian organizations. In addition to the 3 Russian addresses, this bitcoin hack also involves 983 other unidentified wallets whose private keys, which provide access to confirm internal transactions, have been stolen.
It is still unclear how the attacker managed to get hold of the private keys of these wallets, and even more unclear how he managed to penetrate Russian computer security systems.
Presumably, this was not a hacking attack, but rather a strategy devised by an insider within the Russian intelligence services or otherwise in possession of highly classified information.
It is not known how much BTC was donated to Ukrainian organizations: all we can conclude is that these funds were stolen by a supporter of the Ukrainian armed forces, and that the intent was to weaken Russian profiles both economically and in terms of reputation.
In fact, the Russians are known to have always been at the forefront of the cryptocurrency cyber environment, even though the government itself has banned Bitcoin and the rest of the cryptocurrencies on several occasions.
However, this is not the first time that Russia has been attacked in a cryptographic context, especially since the beginning of the conflict with Ukraine, followed by an invasion by the Soviets.
Specifically, the addresses most affected by this bitcoin hack, namely the GRU, SVR and FSB, have been accused of funding their wallets through cyber theft and fraud via a public message published on the bitcoin blockchain.
The accusations, which have yet to be verified but are said to be true, were made around the time of the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the invasion of Donbass territory.
Russian addresses victim of bitcoin hack have previously been accused of cyber theft of cryptocurrency
The first attacks on Russian intelligence agencies were carried out during the first political tensions between Russia and Ukraine, in which the same anonymous user who sent funds to Ukrainian aid organizations a few days ago pointed to the GRU, SVR and FSB as criminal profiles specializing in hacking bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Basically, the story is about an anonymous hacker stealing money from Russian hackers through a bitcoin hacking attack.
The allegations have some basis in truth, as it has been confirmed that two Russian companies that were hacked were involved in the Solarwinds attack, while a third paid for servers used in the Russian disinformation campaign during the 2016 election.
In order to flag the Russians’ wallets as coming from criminal activity, the vigilante used a specific feature of the bitcoin protocol called OP RETURN.
This is a feature that marks a transaction as invalid and effectively burns all of the bitcoin contained in the transaction, while allowing messages in text form to be recorded on the blockchain.
The person exploiting the OP RETURN mechanism publicly pointed out that the Russian addresses were criminal organizations and burned approximately $300,000 in BTC to gain credibility for such claims.
However, since the Russian invasion of Donbass, the senders of the OP RETURN feature have stopped burning cryptocurrencies to attract attention and have begun to strike at the heart of Russian intelligence organizations by stealing the BTC in their possession and donating it to Ukraine to fund war operations.
From this last point, it is possible to understand that the mysterious user involved in the affair aimed to undermine Russia’s credibility and weaken its institutions, while trying to strengthen Ukraine by supporting it through voluntary cryptographic actions.
The Role of Cryptocurrencies in the Russia-Ukraine War
Beyond the issues of bitcoin hacks and cyberattacks, it is interesting to note how cryptocurrencies in general have played a crucial role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the past two years.
The pseudo-anonymous and decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies has been used by numerous individuals and organizations to send money via international transactions in both Russia and Ukraine, in contexts where international payment circuits were not functioning as they normally do.
For example, early in the conflict, Binance decided to donate $10 million in crypto to Ukraine to help with the country’s humanitarian crisis through its Binance Charity site.
At the same time, the crypto exchange had also launched a fundraising campaign called “Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund” to support the nation in its resistance against the Russian army’s invasion.
Donating in crypto makes it possible to eliminate any broker in the transaction and ensure that 100 percent of the total amount donated (after transaction fees are removed) goes directly into the hands of the designated organizations.
In addition to Binance, other prominent figures in the crypto scene have also come out on this front by supporting Ukraine.
First and foremost is Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, who took to Twitter to remind people that his blockchain infrastructure remains neutral due to the agnostic nature of the technology, while he as an individual can choose to publicly take sides.
The Ukrainian government itself has openly embraced the P2P ideal of cryptos by accepting support via the Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Polkadot blockchain networks.
The currencies used for donations were mainly BTC, ETH, USDT and DOT.
In this regard, Polkadot founder Gavin Wood donated $5 million in DOT to the cause as a pledge in case, as happened, the Ukrainian government opens the doors of its crypto payment network for donations.