The world of cryptocurrencies is associated with constant changes and innovation, and while there is more and more security and trust around these technologies, it is also true that hackers, scammers and criminals have evolved, adapting their modus operandi to earn a few bucks here and there.
However, even though blockchain is synonymous with security and transparency, the sum of these “few bucks” results in multi-million dollar figures. In fact, during 2018, in the middle of the bearish market, the number of stolen funds surpassed those of 2017.
Scams: A Million-Dollar Problem
According to a report by the cybersecurity firm ChainAnalysis, “In 2018, only about 0.01% of ether was stolen in scams, worth $36 million, double the $17 million take for 2017. Furthermore, the number of scams declined through 2018, although those that remained were bigger, more sophisticated and vastly more lucrative.”
The report notes that ChainAnalysis was able to identify more than 2000 fraudulent addresses, which would have received funds from more than 40000 different wallets. The year 2018 saw an increase in this type of criminal activity, which in turn also increased its “effectiveness.”
Exit-Scams and Ponzi Schemes Grew Considerably on 2018
The most common type of Scam during 2018 were phishing attacks, with 38.7% of the total. However, this represents a substantial decline in proportion to the year 2017, where this type of attack covered more than 88% of the total crypto scams.
ICO Exit-scams and Ponzi schemes resulted in more than 45% of the scams. According to the report, although scam attempts were lower in number, the level of sophistication and elaboration of the schemes now allowed the few successful attempts to make multi-million dollar profits:
“In 2018, scamming activity shifted in two ways. First, after the success of phishing scams in 2017, many more criminals jumped on the bandwagon. They saturated the market with phishing attacks, but fewer users took the hook. As a result, phishing scams were much less effective than in previous years. In 2018, the median amount sent to a scam was around 50% less than in the prior year. A smaller group of innovative criminals executed more complex Ponzi and ICO exit scams that generated millions of dollars in income. These more sophisticated schemes dominated the second half of the year.”
This problem has become so notorious that authorities and multilateral organizations have seriously studied the design of policies and procedures to stop them. Increasingly, regulations are adapting to this type of technology, demonstrating that society is assimilating crypto as tools of everyday use.
The full report is available upon subscription on the ChainAnalysis website