An investigation by intelligence firm Kharon revealed that Tornado Cash developer Alexey Pertsev is a former employee of a company that the U.S. sanctioned for working with the Russian security agency FSB.
According to the report, Pertsev worked as a smart contract developer for Digital Security OOO. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned the Russian entity in 2018 for allegedly developing a project in 2015 that helped increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities.
Kharon’s vice president of research Nick Grothaus said:
“You had this guy working for [Digital Security OOO] and doing pen testing himself, and then Treasury designated the company for helping the FSB’s hacking capabilities,”
From Digital Security to PepperSec
Following the U.S. designation, Pertsev moved on to co-found PepperSec, a security firm for white hat hackers, in 2020. PerpperSec helped develop Tornado Cash and launched a MutliSender app, enabling users to send crypto tokens to “thousands of addresses” in a single transaction.
With over $7 billion allegedly laundered through Tornado Cash, the Treasury sanctioned the protocol on Aug 8. Dutch authorities arrested Pertserv for allegedly facilitating and concealing money laundering activities in a follow-up event.
Reacting to Kharon’s report, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Alex Zerden, said that the investigation brings to question the credibility of Tornado Cash developers. Zerden also added:
“This is pretty profound information that informs why the U.S. government and Dutch authorities have take certain actions.”
Officials still possess classified information
The crypto community has vehemently condemned the authorities for impeding personal privacy and sanctioning open-source codes. However, some government supporters claim that the actions are in the interest of all.
Zerden said that if the crypto community knew what was happening behind the scenes, it would appreciate the government’s effort. The information asymmetry is linked to the confidentiality of such issues, Zerden added.
“Officials are often not able to provide information to the public because of classification requirements.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer has urged the Treasury to provide clarity on issues relating to the Tornado Cash sanction. He argues that the sanctions impact not only national security but the right to privacy of every American citizen.
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