$1.1 billion in cryptocurrency stolen in 2018
Cryptocurrency exchanges were the biggest targets, Monero is the most-thieved coin and activity is rising.
More than $1 billion worth of digital currency has already been stolen in just the first six months of the year, with cryptocurrency-thieving malware being the most preferred method of fraudulence for cybercriminals.
Cybersecurity company Carbon Black published a report entitled Cryptocurrency Gold Rush on the Dark Web. In analyzing how such an enormous amount of funds can be pilfered, the report found that there are currently an estimated 12,000 dark web marketplaces selling approximately 34,000 offerings related to crypto theft. These malware offerings range in price, from as low as $1.04, to as high as $1,000. The average listing price for these thieving products was around $224, while the “sweet spot” was around $10. The available dark web marketplaces represent a $6.7 million illicit economy built on the back of sales of such products.
Cryptocurrency theft targets
Of the attacks identified within the report, occurring in the last six months, cryptocurrency exchanges were found to be the most vulnerable victims, suffering more than a quarter (27%) of total incursions in 2018. One fifth (21%) of thefts were directed at businesses, while more than one in ten (14%) violated governments.
When it comes to which cryptocurrencies are likely to be stolen, bitcoin’s high fees and lengthy transaction times make it a less desirable option. Monero’s lack of traceability and comparatively low fees make it one of the most sought-after (44% of all crypto funds stolen are taken in Monero) and profitable cryptocurrencies.
Ethereum (11%) was the next most popular coin to be stolen by cybercriminals, followed by bitcoin (10%).
The amount stolen in cryptocurrency during the first six months of this year isn’t far off the $1.3 billion in victim losses from all internet crime throughout 2016, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Center.
Carbon Black’s research also found that a growing number of websites are either intentionally deploying cryptocurrency scripts or are being used to transmit illicit mining malware to unsuspecting users. This is most commonly referred to as “cryptojacking”. The report found people living in countries with weaker economies were more likely to be targeted by this particular form of malware, as they’re less capable to pay ransoms.
Geographically speaking, there was no correlation between location and motive of cryptocurrency-related attacks. The leading international hotspots for digital currency thefts were the United States (24 incidents), China (10 incidents), the United Kingdom (eight incidents), Japan (five incidents) and India (five incidents).
The marketplace represents a significant illicit cryptocurrency-related economy, with potential for high return on investment (ROI). Most importantly, we identified specific sellers and listings that provide detailed instructions and tutorials for users to cash out their earnings. For all intents and purposes, this is easily identifiable as crypto-cleansing (money laundering, but with blockchain), which allows users to exchange for alternative cryptocurrencies through cryptocurrency exchanges.
Carbon Black’s report details how cybercriminals launder stolen funds
Pump and dump schemes are also a problem for traders. These strategies target initial coin offerings (ICOs) and involve exchanging or purchasing specific currencies, creating false value and luring legitimate buyers.
Tips to stay protected against cryptocurrency theft
The reports suggests users always use an endpoint security solution with prevention and detection capabilities to protect their devices. Avoid installing untrusted applications or following unfamiliar links. Consider using an ad-blocker and only transact on trustworthy exchanges. Don’t reuse passwords and unknown wifi connections.
“We expect to see cryptocurrency theft and illicit mining activity expand in the mid-to-long term as security
mechanisms and user awareness slowly catch up to the evolving threat,” Carbon Black’s report explained.
A recent research reports revealed that the cryptocurrency industry suffered US$673 million in losses during the first quarter 2018, resulting from global hacks, ponzi scams, phishing attacks and digital currency theft.
You can learn all about different exchanges, understand exactly how to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, calculate your taxes, discover digital wallets to hold assets and explore a list of all the alternative coins on the market.
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