Is Tornado Cash linked to Russia’s security agency?

Sahana Kiran
Tornado Cash
Source – Pixabay

The last couple of months have been more than just dramatic for the crypto-verse. The onset of the bear market, the collapse of Terra, the plethora of bankruptcy filings, along with the takedown and arrest of crypto mixer Tornado Cash’s developer, Alexey Pertsev.

This incident enraged a majority of the crypto industry. Several noted how the developers behind scammy projects were still out in the open while Pertsev was arrested for merely upholding decentralization. The crypto community called out centralized systems and suggested that they weren’t ready for the level of decentralization the crypto-verse offered. However now, it seems like the arrest was for a much bigger reason.

A recent report curated by Kharon, an intelligence firm pointed out that Pertsev was previously part of a company that was linked to FSB, a Russian security agency. It should be noted that Tornado Cash operates on software that was formulated by a Delaware-registered corporation called PepperSec.

Speaking about the same, Nick Grothaus, vice president of research at Kharon 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.”

It should be noted that crypto mixer usage hit an all-time high this year. Funds that were sent to mixers by cybercriminals groups from Russia were particularly high.

Will public outcry take a back seat now?

As mentioned earlier, the arrest seemed to be much bigger than targeting an open-source platform. Alex Zerden, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security commented about the same and said,

“This opens up a lot of credibility issues for the developers of Tornado Cash. This is pretty profound information that informs why the U.S. government and Dutch authorities have taken certain actions. There seems to be a more complex and complicated picture that takes more time to unravel.”

The public has been protesting against Pertsev’s arrest. Protesters were reportedly gathered in Amsterdam urging for the release of the Tornado Cash developer. Several went on to scream out “open source [code] is not a crime.”

As Zerden said, Pertsev’s link to Russia could open up more doors in the case.