Leaked files reviewed by MintPress expose how intelligence services the world over can track cryptocurrency transactions to their source and therefore identify users by monitoring the movements of smartphone and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, such as Amazon Echo. The contents comprehensively detonate the myth of crypto anonymity, and have grave implications for individuals and states seeking to shield their financial activity from the prying eyes of hostile governments and authorities.
The documents are among a trove related to the secret operations of Anomaly 6, a shadowy private spying firm founded by a pair of U.S. military intelligence veterans.
The company covertly embeds software development kits, or SDKs, in hundreds of popular apps, then slices through layers of “anonymized” data in order to uncover sensitive information about any individual it chooses anywhere on Earth, at any time. In all, Anomaly 6 can simultaneously monitor roughly three billion smartphone devices – equivalent to a fifth of the world’s total population – in real-time.
Having previously hawked its wares to U.S. Special Operations Command, as this journalist revealed on December 6, Anomaly 6 is now using British private military company Prevail Partners – heavily involved in the West’s proxy war in Ukraine – to market and sell its product to a variety of Western military, security, and intelligence agencies the world over. This is despite the company’s own founders fearing its global dragnet could be completely illegal under national and international data protection regimes.
The company’s international surveillance reach could be more sweeping – and invasive – than even that of the C.I.A. and N.S.A. MintPress can reveal individuals, organizations, and states seeking to bypass traditional financial structures and systems loom prominently in Anomaly 6’s mephitic crosshairs, and spying on their transactions is a pivotal component of its sales pitch to government and private clients. This Orwellian technology leaves cryptocurrency users the world over nowhere to hide.
Who watches the watchers?
Ever since Bitcoin’s launch in 2009, anonymity has been an absolutely fundamental tenet of cryptocurrency. The ability to make and receive payments incognito through a secure, decentralized platform without needing to register a named bank account, or even interact with established financial gatekeepers at any stage, was and remains a unique selling point for the asset.
The principle of anonymity is taken so seriously by crypto practitioners and aficionados alike that industry platforms are graded according to their levels of privacy. Many crypto entrepreneurs, some of whom manage hundreds of millions of dollars for clients, conduct business without ever disclosing their names, or any identifying information at all. Venture capital firms have even invested vast sums in crypto ventures with wholly pseudonymous founders, an unprecedented sectoral development.
In recent years, however, there have been several clear indications that cryptocurrency anonymity is under significant threat, and indeed could already have been mortally compromised by the U.S. intelligence apparatus. In June 2021, it was revealed that the F.B.I. had successfully traced and recovered $2.3 million in Bitcoin extorted by hackers from Colonial Pipeline in a ransomware attack, which had shut down the company’s computer systems, causing fuel shortages and a spike in gas prices….