Systems used in hacking the Democratic Party were paid for Bitcoin, as were online hosting services that supported sites that published hacked material and used for disinformation among American voters. The hacker and disinformation campaigns made up the vast majority of Russian online efforts to influence the 2016 election.
All Bitcoin transactions are posted to a fixed public ledger (blockchain). While the blockchain does not contain any obvious identifying information about the person behind a transaction, if a user finds out that he is responsible for a transaction, then someone can track the entire bitcoin history.
Russian agents, including representatives of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU), had taken advantage of "the perception of cryptocurrency anonymity," as Müller's indictment of GRU agents in July last year stated. But while Bitcoin allowed the Russians to "avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions in order to extract them from closer scrutiny of their identities and sources of money," the same indictment said, it was not enough to circumvent Müller's investigation.
Investigators' access to the "other side of the Blockchain equation," as he described them, was important because: "Instead of having to search the blockchain for clues, they already had all the receipts showing which accounts were below Controlling the GRU. "
The Russians used stolen and false identities to set up some of these accounts, according to Mueller's team, but had used the same accounts to acquire servers and Web site domains involved in hacking the Democratic Party and the Publishing the hacked materials, Müller outlines the indictment. That, according to Cotten, would have made it easier for investigators to connect the case.
A virtual private network, a way to disguise the place from which a user accesses the Internet, was also bought with Bitcoin, Müller found; this network was used to sign in to @ Guccifer_2, the infamous Twitter account that communicated with Wikileaks and others, Mueller stated.