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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.
“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, 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.