July 15, 2024

Crypto-Related Ransom Payments Reach Record $1 Billion in 2023: Chainalysis Report

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Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis has reported that payments stemming from crypto-related ransom attacks soared to a new high of $1 billion in 2023, almost doubling from the previous year. The data reveals a concerning trend, with scammers focusing on institutions such as hospitals, schools, and government offices, raking in $1.1 billion in 2023 compared to $567 million in 2022. Despite this surge in ransom payments, losses from other crypto-related crimes, including scams and hacking, actually decreased over the same period.

Chainalysis attributes the rise in crypto-related ransom payments to an influx of new actors lured by the potential for substantial profits and relatively lower entry barriers. The report notes a prevailing strategy termed “big game hunting,” where a dominant share of ransom revenue volume consists of payments exceeding $1 million.

One notable example highlighted in the report involves a group of digital extortionists known as “cl0p,” who exploited the MOVEit file-sharing software, reaping nearly $100 million in ransom payments. MOVEit cybersecurity breaches affected hundreds of organizations, including government departments, the UK’s telecom regulator, and energy giant Shell. The software, commonly used for transferring large amounts of sensitive data, became a target for ransom attacks.

The report also mentions the “Black Basta” cybercrime group, which extorted over $107 million in bitcoin, with laundered ransom payments finding their way to the sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex.

It’s worth noting that Chainalysis’ figures may underestimate crypto’s role in overall criminal activities, as the analysis focuses on tracking cryptocurrency sent to wallet addresses identified as illicit. The report excludes payments for non-crypto-related crimes, such as the use of crypto in drug trafficking deals.

The significant increase in crypto-related ransom payments underscores the growing threat of cybercriminals targeting various institutions, emphasizing the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures and regulatory efforts to curb illicit activities in the crypto space.

Digital Assets Desk

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