Cryptocurrency Thieves On Track To Steal Over $1 Billion In 2018

By Nermeen Abbas

The total value of stolen cryptocurrency is expected to hit over $1 billion by the end of this year, which represents a 350% increase over the amount that was stolen in all of 2017, according to a new research from CipherTrace.

The U.S cybersecurity firm revealed that during the first three quarters of 2018, $927 million of cryptocurrency was reported as stolen from exchanges by hackers; $166 million was reported stolen since the second quarter, driven by an emerging trend toward more frequent and smaller cyber-attacks by sophisticated thieves.

According to CipherTrace 2018 Q3 Cryptocurrency Anti-Money, a quantitative analysis of all the transactions on the 20 top cryptocurrency exchanges globally, 97% of direct bitcoin payments from identifiable criminal sources were received by unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges.

Nearly 5% of all bitcoin sent to poorly regulated exchanges comes from criminal activity before the money is moved, undetected, into the global financial payments system.

The poorly regulated exchanges have laundered a significant amount of bitcoin, totalling 380,000 BTC, or $2.5 billion at today’s prices, which means that 36 times more criminal bitcoin was received by crypto exchanges in countries where AML is either lax or lacking.

The CipherTrace reports analyzed 45 million transactions at 20 top cryptocurrency exchanges globally between January 2009 until September 20, 2018. “There are likely 50% more criminal transactions than those that were traced for this report because criminals are typically very clever and deft at hiding their tracks,” the cybersecurity firm commented.

“This extensive research shows that regulation does have a direct correlation in hindering criminal activity, and we are on the right track to instill further trust in the crypto ecosystem. We will see the opportunities to launder Cryptocurrencies greatly reduced in the coming 18 months as Cryptocurrency AML regulations are rolled out globally,” commented Dave Jevans, CEO, CipherTrace and co-chair of the Cryptocurrency Working Group at the APWG.org.

The study shows that efforts to enact and enforce strong cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations are drastically reducing criminal activity on digital currency exchanges.

It also marked a steadily growing number of cryptocurrency thefts, which included several heists in the $20-$60 million range; the data indicates a pattern of smaller robberies on a regular basis and sophisticated professional cyber thieves who carry out hacks at both the exchange and platform.

In the 2018 Q2 Cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering Report, CipherTrace revealed a three-fold increase in cryptocurrency thefts during the first half of 2018 compared with the entire year of 2017. Most notable were the $530 million worth of tokens stolen in Japan from Coincheck and $195 million worth of tokens stolen from BitGrail.

According to CipherTrace, criminals are expected to quickly launder the stolen tokens before stronger cryptocurrency anti-money laundering controls are deployed globally over the next 18 months.