The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program has opted to add cryptocurrency payments as rewards to informants who identify state-backed hackers.
According to the department, the crypto payment is part of the RFJ’S $10 million rewards kitty to informants. The cryptocurrency payment option makes the RFJ the first government agency to deploy digital assets in its operations.
“Within our program, there’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm because we’re pushing the envelope every chance we get to try and reach audiences, sources, people who may have information that helps improve our national security,” said a State Department official.
Initially, the department paid informers through wire transfers and even cash. Worth noting is that informants will now choose their desired cryptocurrencies for payments.
The department clarified that the recent growth of cyberattacks is not the main motivation behind the cryptocurrency rewards. Due to the sensitive information, the department’s option of cryptocurrencies is ideal, considering the anonymous nature of digital currencies transactions.
Previously, the U.S. government has accused Russia and China of sponsoring hackers who comprise state agencies and departments. Through the reward scheme, the RFJ seeks to identify this group of hackers who mainly target the U.S. government, financial services, and infrastructure sectors.
The use of dark web to send tips
Potential informants need to use the Tor browser and access the RFJ channel to send the government tips through the Dark Web. Since the channel was set up, the RFJ acknowledges it has received several tips that are undergoing vetting before being submitted to the relevant authorities.
The use of cryptocurrency payments reflects the changing perception of the sector. Notably, the U.S. government’s closest move to adopting cryptocurrencies is through the possible rollout of a digital dollar.
Regulators have largely remained skeptical about the legalization of cryptocurrencies. Therefore, the deployment of crypto payments points to the growing role of digital currencies.