Leaked Photo Suggests NSA Infiltrated Cryptocurrencies

Recent news that the National Security Administration (NSA) may have successfully launched investigations into "Tor, I2P, and VPN," with an additional pending request for projects focused on cryptocurrencies, is likely to go over poorly with the cryptocurrency community.

For cryptocurrency investors, privacy, security, and anonymity are some of the biggest draws. As decentralized, largely unregulated vehicles, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin were designed to be unencumbered by many of the traditional apparatuses that govern mainstream currencies.

4chan Post Suggests Investigation

A photograph posted on the popular 4chan message board appears to show a memo from the U.S. Army Cyber Protection Brigade, dated August 21, 2017, according to bitcoin.com.

The document suggests the U.S. Army teamed up with the NSA to conduct investigations into Tor, I2P, and VPN, three tools used to encrypt and obfuscate everything from data to the location of users.

A grainy photo of the alleged letter was shared on 4chan, fueling speculation and conspiracy theories online.

Tor and I2P are commonly used as means of accessing the dark net, including illegal black markets like the former Silk Road marketplace. (See also: What Is the Dark Net?)  Many of these markets have traditionally relied on cryptocurrencies as a method of payment, as virtual currencies offer greater anonymity and security than fiat currencies.

While many individuals relying on Tor, I2P, and VPN have long assumed that the government has accessed and compromised certain aspects of those tools, this memo, if legitimate, seems to confirm that suspicion. (See also: Who Is Roger Ver, aka "Bitcoin Jesus"?)

Government Infiltration of Crypto World?

Besides the successful investigations into encryption methods, the memo suggests that the NSA may be looking into cryptocurrencies themselves. "The success we have had with Tor, I2P, and VPN cannot be replicated with those currencies that do not rely on nodes," the memo indicates.

Before cryptocurrency enthusiasts assume the government is moving to infiltrate digital currencies, however, it must be considered whether the memo is legitimate. The original picture shows the memo on a computer terminal of some kind, with a portion of an official ID card next to it.

Nonetheless, the memo could be an attempt at injecting fear and suspicion into the herd mentality regarding cryptocurrency. Those fears may well be unfounded, as it's unclear exactly what the aim of these investigations, should they exist, would actually be anyway. After all, the date on the memo is several months old, and in fact, some other media outlets reported on the memo within the same time frame. (See also: Crypto This Week: Bitcoin Price Plunges Below $8,000.)

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns cryptocurrencies.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.