With more and more people putting their trust in cryptocurrencies, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is beginning to research how to crack and decrypt crypto wallets that have been subject to seizure and forfeiture, according to a May 20 request for information (RFI) posted to SAM.gov.

IRS is looking to see if prior research on crypto wallet vulnerabilities is accurate, as well as identify new ways to access crypto wallets.

“The Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigation (CI), Digital Forensics Unit routinely encounters crypto wallets subject to seizure and forfeiture,” the RFI says. “Though a few known cyber penetration testers have published vulnerabilities on specific devices, the process of decrypting the hardware devices to gain access to the wallets has been challenging.”

The IRS also hopes the process will help it to:

  • “identify [how] successful cryptographic models exploits can be accomplished;
  • document the processes, hardware, and skillsets needed for reproduction in an advanced digital forensic laboratory; and
  • create hands-on training for the identified techniques in support of IRS-CI Digital Forensics Laboratory.”

Beyond that, the IRS wants to use reverse-engineering and other established exploitation and digital forensic tactics to conduct software and firmware analysis, hardware reverse engineering, and integrated circuit identification in order to identify “consistent, repeatable exploitation techniques” against specific devices, according to the RFI.

“It is a priority to combine the leading-edge cybersecurity research available on the topics of embedded hardware exploitation with the disciplined, established science of digital forensics. The explicit outcome of this requirement is to tame the cybersecurity research into measured, repeatable, consistent digital forensics processes that can be trained and followed in a digital forensics laboratory,” the RFI says.

The IRS’ stated goals for the RFI include identifying potential sources, obtaining feedback, identifying any small business concerns, and identifying if respondents have any contract vehicles that the Office of Management and Budget have deemed “Best in Class.”

Responses to the RFI are due June 1.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.