In the past week, the FBI has issued a warning to cryptocurrency users to be on their guard against cybercrime. According to the agency, the growing threat of cybercrime has resulted in a significant rise in the number of cases of data theft, in which hackers steal information, including personal details.
Cryptocurrency has been around for less than a decade, but this volatile and fast-growing digital asset has been thrust into the spotlight with the recent hacking of the Japanese crypto exchange Coincheck, which was a $530 million heist. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have issued a joint warning, warning of the growing threat of cybercrime associated with the use of virtual currencies. They also noted that criminals are increasingly using cryptocurrency exchanges as an opportunity to steal funds, using stolen user credentials and phishing schemes.
Several mainstream publications are reporting that cryptocurrencies are facing a new wave of cybercrime. According to Forbes, this is due to the rising value of cryptocurrencies.
But does this deserve special attention, given the environmental and mining concerns that still exist?
FBI warns crypto currency users of cyber threat
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning about the growing threat posed by cybercriminals.
It was developed to raise awareness of the dangers and to show cyber security professionals how to protect against attacks. The FBI memo lists numerous attack methods to watch out for, including tech support scams, SIM card spoofing and Exchange account hacking.
This decision comes in the context of several ransomware attacks that have attracted a lot of public attention recently. In the case of the Colonial Pipeline attack, however, the incident raised more questions than it answered in the course of events.
Last month, the Justice Department said it had recovered $2.3 million of the $4.4 million paid to the hacker group known as REvil, which claimed responsibility for the cyber attack on the pipeline.
The statement, filed Monday, says the FBI has the private key to open the bitcoin wallet that received most of the money. It is not known how the FBI gained access to the key.
Apparently, US authorities gained access to the cloud server where the private keys of the ransomware-funded cryptocurrency wallet were stored.
Observers wondered why a group of experienced hackers stored private keys on a cloud server. But more importantly, since bitcoin is a public ledger, why didn’t they make life easier by requiring payment in a private currency like Monero.
Is cybercrime increasing?
A study by blockchain data platform Chainalysis shows that crime in the cryptocurrency space has decreased over the past year.
In 2019, cryptocurrencies are estimated to account for 2.1% of all activity, worth just over $21 billion. But the following year, crime accounted for 0.34% of total revenue and reached $10 billion.
Further analysis shows that in every year since 2017, fraud has been the most common form of cybercrime. By 2020, however, the number of fraud cases will have fallen by 72%.
In contrast, ransomware attacks are the fastest growing category, growing 311% year-on-year by 2020.
By 2020, the main story of cryptocurrency-based crime will be ransomware. This seems counterintuitive, as ransomware accounted for only 7% of all funds received from criminal addresses, or just under $350 million in cryptocurrencies. However, this figure is 311% higher than in 2019.
In general, cryptocurrency crime is decreasing. But judging by this analysis, cybercriminals have switched to ransomware attacks and fraud has taken a back seat.
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