The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been reportedly monitoring the Bitcoin (Bitcoin) blockchain with an eye on identifying users on the distributed network, according to classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept reported.
The documents indicate that “tracking down” Bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining Bitcoin’s public transaction ledger - the blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users’ computers.
The NSA collected some Bitcoin users’ password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users’ internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify “BITCOIN Targets.”
According to the source, as of 2013, the NSA’s Bitcoin tracking was achieved through program code-named OAKSTAR, a collection of covert corporate partnerships enabling the agency to monitor communications, including by harvesting internet data as it traveled along fiber optic cables that undergird the internet.
Specifically, the NSA targeted Bitcoin through MONKEYROCKET, a sub-program of OAKSTAR, which tapped network equipment to gather data from the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Asia, according to classified descriptions.