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Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

The Justice Department alleges that the Russian intelligence officers who were indicted today in the Mueller investigation used cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to purchase and fund their hacking operations.

Why it matters: Since its birth in 2009, Bitcoin has been criticized for enabling criminal activities thanks to its anonymity. The online black market Silk Road infamously used Bitcoin to let its customers buy and sell without being identified.

How they used Bitcoin:

  • The conspirators used the cryptocurrency to purchase infrastructure like web domain addresses and servers. Many of the payments were processed by U.S. companies providing services to vendors both in the U.S. and abroad.
  • They also used Bitcoin to fund their activities by mining it. When mining Bitcoin — by using computing power to calculate, verify, and record transactions on the network — the participant earns cryptocurrency, which can then be sold for fiat currency or used for transactions.

Be smart: Despite its reputation, Bitcoin isn't fully anonymous, as investigators can track transactions on its public ledger. This is how federal agents famously caught corrupt colleagues involved with Silk Road.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
5 mins ago - Technology

Apple sets September quarter sales record despite later iPhone launch

Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at the Apple 12 launch event in October. Photo: Apple

Apple on Thursday reported quarterly sales and earnings that narrowly exceeded analysts estimates as the iPhone maker continued to see strong demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they's saying: The company said response to new products, including the iPhone 12 has been "tremendously positive" but did not give a specific forecast for the current quarter.

Supreme Court rejects second GOP effort to cut absentee ballot deadline in N.C.

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Supreme Court, for the second time in two days, rejected a GOP request to shorten the deadline mail-in ballots must be received by North Carolina officials to be counted.

The state of play: The state's deadline had been extended from 3 days to 9 days post-Election Day.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

The vaccine race turns toward nationalism

The coronavirus pandemic is worsening, both in the U.S. and abroad, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths all rising.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of global vaccine development — including why the U.S. and China seem to going at it alone — with medicinal chemist and biotech blogger Derek Lowe.