On Sep. 10, 2020, the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released a specially designated nationals list of four Russian hackers. These individuals allegedly ran a troll factory that aimed to meddle with the US midterm elections of Nov. 2018. They used 23 crypto addresses to transfer about $1M used to finance an election interference conspiracy.
OFAC has now sanctioned these addresses, which swapped various privacy coins in a strategy called Chain-hopping. The department has also sanctioned the four alleged masterminds of the election meddling plot.
St.Petersburg native Artem Lifshits is among the russian fraudsters who attempted to undermine the US democratic process. Other names mentioned in the OFAC nationals list include Anton Andreyev and Darya Aslanova.
Lifshits was the mastermind behind “Project Lakhta,” a multimillion-dollar Russian-based operation that spread propaganda to achieve electoral interference in the US.
US Attorney Zachary Terwilliger filed a complaint containing additional charges for the hackers’ involvement in illegally accessing confidential government documents.
They also stole US citizens’ ID credentials to open crypto addresses, and Paypal accounts for their illegal activities.
US Officials Vow to Clamp Down On Election Interference
Russian nationals have long carried out presidential election interference through crypto funding. They are also notorious for various crypto scams around the world.
The OFAC sanctions come at a crucial time when the US is preparing for the 2020 presidential elections in November. US attorney Terwilliger noted that the government is determined to halt election-related cybercrime.
“Federal law enforcement will work aggressively to hold accountable cyber criminals located in Russia and other countries, which serve as safe-havens for this type of criminal activity,” Terwilliger asserted.
As per a report from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, nearly half of the sanctioned crypto addresses belong to top crypto exchanges.
Therefore, it appears that Lifshits and his accomplices chose to transact via accounts at exchanges due to slack KYC regulations on such platforms.
Could Crypto Fraud Lead to Stringent Regulations?
As reported in 2019, Russian officials reverted into a crypto-hostile territory after cybercrime that exploited digital assets skyrocketed.
It now appears that the use of crypto in election interference and other illicit activities could force financial watchdogs globally to seek increased regulatory clarity. Such action would force far more exchanges to implement strict KYC and AML controls.