For the first time, the US government has publicly announced that it will pay cryptocurrencies to overseas cybercrime informants.
The US State Department last week released a statement offering rewards for reporting malicious cyber activity overseas against critical US infrastructure.
The textual statement: “The US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program, which is administered by the Diplomatic Security Service, offers a reward of up to US $ 10 million for information that leads to the identification or location of any person who, while acting on the instructions or under the control of a foreign government, engages in malicious cyber activity against critical infrastructure in the United States in violation of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) ”.
The publication states that these irregularities “may include the transmission of extortion threats as part of ransomware attacks; intentional unauthorized access to or exceeding of authorized access and thereby obtaining information from any protected computer; and willfully cause the transmission of any program, information, code or command and, as a result of such conduct, willfully cause unauthorized damage to a protected computer.
Protected computers include not only the computer systems of the United States government and financial institutions but also those that are used or that affect commerce or communication interstate or abroad.
The Rewards for Justice program explains that it has implemented a Dark Web (Tor-based) cheat reporting channel to protect the security of potential sources. And precisely, after having indicated it, specify that “Reward payments can include payments in cryptocurrencies.”
US government first time
A spokesperson for the agency confirmed to Coindesk media outlet that this fact marks “the first time since its inception in 1984 that the Rewards for Justice program has offered a reward payment in cryptocurrency.”
Separately, Forbes adds that it appears to be the first time that an organ of the United States federal government has taken the plunge. Fiat Rewards Most Wanted lists are also maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but to date neither agency has publicly offered to perform cryptocurrency payments (even when the fugitive is wanted for cryptocurrency-related crimes).
Likewise, Forbes notes that for Bitcoin enthusiasts, the news can be seen as an admission by the U.S. government that decentralized cryptocurrencies are a viable way to conduct state affairs.
The magazine adds that obviously the amount offered is so high because the US diplomatic security service must be very aware that anyone who participates in its Rewards for Justice program is putting their life at risk.
It is precisely for this reason that the decision to offer cryptocurrency payments seems quite pragmatic, as they offer more anonymity and less traceability than traditional payment channels. This is in addition to whistleblowers being asked to make contact through an anonymous Tor channel on the Dark Web, “which isn’t exactly routine government protocol,” Forbes explains.