The US National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly has the capacity to locate Bitcoin senders and receivers all around the world, a troubling fact for cryptocurrency users should the report from The Intercept be found true.
According to the report, this is wholly possible thanks to a system that the agency has successfully designed to harvest, analyze, and process raw global internet traffic. The program is essentially disguised as a popular anonymizing software and directly targets Bitcoin users. In order to track these uses, a secret internet surveillance program codenamed OAKSTAR is used to monitor communications and derive data directly from the bowels of the internet.
Meanwhile, a subprogram of OAKSTAR codenamed MONKEYROCKET, which functions as a VPN-like service but in reverse, in which it supposedly tapped network equipment to collect data from users instead of hiding them. It was launched in summer 2012 and is described as a “non-Western internet anonymization service in support of counter-terrorism.”
The report further alleges that: “Currently there are approximately 16,000 registered users, and the site is generating about 2,000 events per day… Iran and China are two of the countries with a significant user base.”
Though the agency was interested in monitoring some competing cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin (“a decentralized digital currency system, wherein the units are known as Bitcoin or BTC”) was its primary target. Tracking was performed by means of a secret internet surveillance program under the code name OAKSTAR, which represents a range of covert corporate partnerships that enabled the agency to monitor communications and pull data directly from the fiber optic connections that form the internet undergird.
A VPN-like service called MONKEYROCKET, a subprogram of OAKSTAR, played a crucial role in identifying Bitcoin users. Instead of hiding user data, MONKEYROCKET tapped network equipment to obtain data from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America. In the NSA documents, MONKEYROCKET is also described as a “non-Western internet anonymization service in support of counter-terrorism” launched in summer 2012.
“Currently there are approximately 16,000 registered users, and the site is generating about 2,000 events per day… Iran and China are two of the countries with a significant user base,” stated the report.
Supposedly, a key piece of this long-term strategy for the use of MONKEYROCKET was to “attract targets engaged in terrorism, to include Al Qaida COMSEC security that the NSA can then exploit.”