How U.S. Adversaries Are Using Cryptocurrency to Evade Sanctions

Before his arrest, Virgil Griffith had a reputation as a “cult hacker,” a “tech-world enfant terrible.” A 2008 profile in The New York Times Magazine, published when he was 25, called him the “Internet Man of Mystery,” and cast him as “a troublemaker … A twerp. And a magnet for tech-world groupies,” drinking White Russians and “revel[ing] in the attention of his female fans.”

Griffith had become notorious the year before, when he launched WikiScanner, a website that used IP address databases to expose the anonymous editors of Wikipedia entries. The site’s release brought on a wave of news coverage, as IPs associated with government agencies, political parties, major multinational corporations and religious institutions, from Pepsi to the CIA to the Church of Scientology, were all implicated. The attention transformed him into a minor celebrity. By 2014, Griffith was still marketing himself as a troublemaker. In a promotional video for the reality show “King of the Nerds,” in which he was a contestant, he describes himself as a “journeyman of the internet dark arts.” “I consider myself a rebel,” he adds, speaking into the camera. “Or at the very least, I play to my own drum.” …

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