CIA director says agency currently has ‘a number of different projects’ focused on crypto

CIA director says agency currently has 'a number of different projects' focused on crypto

William Burns, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said that his predecessor at the agency had initiated projects aimed at gathering intelligence about cryptocurrency.

Burns answered a question about crypto Monday at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit. He said that the CIA wanted to increase its expertise in cryptocurrencies and blockchain, as well as communicating with industry experts. Given what he’s seen in ransomware attacks, he said that the challenges in the crypto space could have an “immensive impact” on the United States.

Burns said that Cohen, the former acting CIA director, had initiated this. “They] had started a lot of projects that were focused on cryptocurrency. They also tried to consider second- and third-order consequences. We worked with U.S. government colleagues to get solid intelligence about what we are seeing.

Screenshot taken at the CEO Council Summit of Wall Street Journal on Dec. 6

He stated that crypto knowledge was an “important priority” for the Agency and that he would devote resources and attention to it. Although the CIA director didn’t give any details about the direction that the Agency would take to combat cyberattacks but he hinted that it would seek to “get to the financial networks” of criminal groups that use digital currencies to ransom.

Burns, who was appointed director in March, saw hackers demand crypto in response to an attack on Colonial Pipeline in May. A task force from the U.S. government also responded by recovering most of the funds that were lost. Michael Morrell, a former acting CIA Director from 2012 to 2013, stated that “blockchain analysis” is a powerful tool for intelligence gathering and crime fighting. It was not used by law enforcement agencies.

Related: Since WWII, the CIA has had keys to global communication encryption

Burns will most likely be at the Agency at President Joe Biden’s pleasure. There is no term limit for a CIA Director. Biden has not yet announced his selections for three vacant seats on the Federal Reserve System’s board of governors at the time this article was published.

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