But, most importantly, the use of cryptocurrencies for criminal purposes has become increasingly sophisticated, analysts say.
Attackers react very quickly to the changes taking place around them, skillfully adapting to new conditions. Using various cryptocurrencies, they are very inventive in their schemes, and if we talk directly about 2018, the main trends in this area can be divided into three categories:
1) Two large groups involved in hacking exchanges and laundering stolen funds have been identified
In 2018 alone, exchange hacks brought hackers about $1 billion, while, according to Chainalysis, in most cases two large groups were involved in them. The attackers work quickly, cashing out the stolen funds within three months after the attacks and creating complex transaction patterns in order to confuse the traces.
2) The Darknet demonstrates resilience
In 2017, a number of large marketplaces in the darknet were closed, but in 2018, many other sites appeared in their place. Despite the market decline, the total volume of bitcoin transactions on them exceeded $600 million last year – criminal organizations value the darknet for its privacy and convenience, paying little attention to the current prices of cryptocurrencies.
3) Fraudulent schemes using Ethereum are small in volume, but they are developing qualitatively
Despite the fact that the total amount of Ethereum cryptocurrency stolen by fraudsters in 2018 has doubled, it is less than 0.01% of the total value of ETH in circulation. Moreover, a decrease in market hype and a higher awareness of the user base mean that many schemes were not as successful as a year earlier. The peak in the number of users who became victims of scams and other fraudulent schemes occurred at the beginning of 2018, but after that the curve went down sharply.
Nevertheless, analysts note the cyclical nature of successful phishing attacks and its correlation with the asset price. For this reason, according to Chainalysis, users should beware of ponzi schemes and fraudulent ICOs at low prices and be prepared for more sophisticated phishing attacks in the event of an increase in the value of the cryptocurrency.