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by Samuel Bocetta, ©2018

Natalya Kaspersky

(Jan. 29, 2018) — The internet is a lot like high school. The rumor mill is always churning and conspiracy theories abound. Most of these wild rumors or theories are obviously the stuff of eccentric invention, but every so often, a claim is made by someone with a solid reputation.

Case in point: Natalya Kaspersky. The CEO of the InfoWatch group spoke at a digital sovereignty presentation at ITMO University in St. Petersburg, saying, “Bitcoin is a project of American intelligence agencies, which was designed to provide quick funding for US, British and Canadian intelligence activities in different countries.

“[The technology] is ‘privatized,’ just like the Internet, GPS and TOR. In fact, it is dollar 2.0. Its rate is controlled by the owners of exchanges.”

And it didn’t stop there; Kaspersky, who is also the co-founder of the Moscow cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs, had more bold remarks to make. After positing that American intelligence agencies are behind Bitcoin, she went on to claim that Satoshi Nakamoto (the name of Bitcoin’s supposed creator) is actually a pseudonym for a cabal of US-based cryptographers.

Although there is more than a little evidence to suggest that Kaspersky is wrong about the true identity of Nakamoto (after all, other developers have talked about working with him in the past), her comments about intelligence agencies make plenty of sense.

While other countries, including Russia, are taking pains to heavily regulate the cryptocurrency, here in the US, the gatekeepers have taken a different tact. Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has said that they will pursue individuals guilty of committing bitcoin fraud because “these types of things have a destabilizing effect on the market.”

No doubt that destabilization would adversely effect those intelligence agencies who rely on digital funds for their covert operations.

If this all sounds like the ramblings of a lone wingnut from the Kremlin, we can look as far back as 2016 for further evidence of domestic and foreign involvement with the virtual currency. In December of that year, Coin Telegraph reported that US defense and intelligence experts were monitoring Bitcoin.

They even went so far as to suggest that, perhaps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was going to use an amended rule to hack into Bitcoin users’ computers to exert power over taxable pools of hidden assets.

Since then, others have speculated that Bitcoin is actually a product of the NSA. This further supports Kaspersky’s allegations because, as this particular theory points out, Bitcoin is not anonymous and can be easily tracked by law enforcement and other high-ranking parties.

The issue of privacy and anonymity is one that also came up during Kaspersky’s presentation at ITMO University. In her speech, Kaspersky said that smartphones cannot be considered personal gadgets because they are remotely controlled devices designed not only for our own entertainment and enjoyment but for spying on the smartphone owner.

While this is hardly news (publications have been reporting on our lack of mobile privacy for years now), it still has the potential to shock many device-dependent people who don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the realm of modern technology.

Things like Carrier IQ which record our keystrokes and track our location are nothing compared to the other violations we face on the regular. Our banking information and passwords are also vulnerable to attack from hackers.

With the recent repeal of the FCC’s internet privacy rules, the ISPs (internet service providers) we depend on are allowed to collect, share or sell our sensitive personal data to third parties.

Cyber crime has been on the rise in the last few years and experts in the field predict that 2018 will see a number of new threat trends emerging. Ransomware will continue to menace multiple industries and individuals as anyone at Allscripts can tell you.

We are even being targeted by scammers offering fake cryptocurrencies that actually deliver ransomware and malware.

Now is the time for all tech-dependent people to protect themselves by investing in a VPN (virtual private network). Utilizing this military-grade encryption and ghost IP address, users can go about their business without worrying about spooks or scam artists stealing their personal data or targeting them with sophisticated viruses.

This is especially true for those investing in Bitcoin and similar digital assets. When accessing funds online, users should always run a VPN and keep their assets in cold storage.

For business owners in Russia, this is likely not an issue. Not only has President Vladimir Putin placed a ban on VPN use but Kaspersky’s InfoWatch Group has rolled out a surveillance-proof smartphone. The Russian oligarch uses this “spy-proof” TaigaPhone himself which prevents against information leakage.

Russian companies are no doubt delighted with TaigaPhone as it is five times cheaper than an iPhone in the Kremlin. But Americans will have to settle for the proxy servers and intrusion detection features of a VPN for now as our General Services Administration has removed Kaspersky Labs from its list of approved vendors out of concern that the lab poses a risk to US interests.

There is more than a little irony to the GSA’s decision to remove Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky has publicly warned people about a new malware with the ability to steal cryptocurrencies from users’ digital wallets.

But regardless of how one feels about Kaspersky or who is behind Bitcoin, it is clear that Bitcoin investors should take proper precautions to secure their assets.

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