GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA, is closely monitoring bitcoin at the behest of its government. The code-cracking agency, famous for deciphering German communications via its Enigma machine in World War II, now has a new threat to track. Like many other government agencies around the world, it has taken a keen interest in bitcoin.
Also read: UK Ministry of Treasury Plans to Regulate Bitcoin
The UK’s GCHQ is Watching BTC
Government Communications Headquarters, better known as GCHQ, was founded in 1919 and, in its own words, has been “keeping Britain safe ever since”. In 2015, it emerged in the leaked Snowden documents that this remit included collecting information from “every visible user on the internet”, hacking into smartphones using a tool named “Smurf suite”, and eavesdropping on the communications of British politicians.
It’s safe to say that bitcoin isn’t new to GCHQ. The agency has taken a renewed interest in the virtual currency though in recent months following bitcoin’s stellar ascent which has taken many people by surprise. Chris Ensor, the deputy director for GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre division, told The Telegraph that British government departments have ordered it to investigate security risks posed by bitcoin. He said:
We are interested in anything that could affect the country, so Bitcoin is a major thing now.
The agency is reportedly exploring bitcoin from various angles, including how it works, the possible benefits of harnessing its blockchain technology, and the possible threat it poses to the country’s monetary system. Like everyone who’s new to bitcoin, many British politicians are intrigued by the currency, but are also wary.
Street art close to GCHQ’s Cheltenham headquarters
“Government departments are saying to us ‘We want to use some of this technology so is it safe?’ or simply ‘How does it work?’” said Chris Ensor. Departments that GCHQ is assisting include the Treasury, the UK’s equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve. As recently reported by news.Bitcoin.com, the Treasury has plans to regulate bitcoin, amidst the usual concerns about tax evasion and money laundering.
Bitcoin has long been synonymous with spy agencies, with some people claiming that the digital currency was in fact a creation of the NSA or CIA. There is little evidence to support this, and other conspiracy theorists have pointed to the fact that Satoshi Nakamoto’s last communication occurred shortly after bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen was invited to address the CIA in 2011. Any technology that poses a threat to the established global order is bound to be examined closely by the three and four-letter agencies. Right now, bitcoin is a prime target for scrutiny.
Do you think government spy agencies pose a threat to bitcoin, or are they simply intrigued by its uses? Let us know in the comments section below.
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