Feb 8, 2024: According to blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, payments from cryptocurrency-related ransom attacks surged to a record $1 billion in 2023, nearly doubling from the previous year.
Scammers targeting institutions such as hospitals, schools, and government offices for ransom amassed $1.1 billion in 2023, compared to $567 million in 2022. However, losses stemming from other cryptocurrency-related crimes like scamming and hacking decreased during the same period.
The largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, saw a 60% surge since the end of September, reaching $43,134. This uptrend was fueled by enthusiasm surrounding a new U.S. bitcoin ETF and indications that central banks worldwide would begin trimming interest rates.
Chainalysis noted that an increasing number of new players were drawn to the cryptocurrency space by the potential for high profits and lower barriers to entry. The strategy of “big game hunting” has become dominant, with a significant portion of ransom revenue volume comprising payments of $1 million or more.
For example, a group of digital extortionists known as “cl0p” made nearly $100 million in ransom payments after subverting file-sharing software MOVEit. Hundreds of organizations, including government departments and major companies like Shell, reported cybersecurity breaches involving MOVEit software.
In another instance, cybercrime group “Black Basta” extorted at least $107 million in bitcoin, with laundered ransom payments flowing to the sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex.
Cryptocurrency theft through cyberheists and ransomware attacks also serves as a significant source of funding for North Korea, according to UN reports.
It’s worth noting that Chainalysis figures may underestimate crypto’s role in all crime, as they only track cryptocurrency sent to wallet addresses identified as illicit. Payments for non-crypto-related crimes, such as crypto used in drug trafficking, are not included in these figures