Cyber attacks and hacks targeting cryptocurency cost victims over $1.8 billion during the last year alone, as crooks targeted everything from cryptocurrency exchanges down to individual consumers in campaigns designed to take advantage of the boom in bitcoin and other digital currencies.
To put the figure into perspective, in 2016, the FBI calculated the cost of cybercrime at a total of $1.3 billion in victim losses. According to a new report by security firm Carbon Black, cryptocurrency-related cybercrime alone surpassed that figure just two years later.
December 2017 saw the value of a single bitcoin rocket to almost $20,000, drawing cyber criminals towards what they saw as an easy target for illicitly acquiring funds.
Cryptocurrency exchanges — online platforms where users can exchange one cryptocurrency for another or trade it for traditional currency — are tempting targets for cyber attackers.
Many of these platforms have sprung up quickly to take advantage of the growing interest in bitcoin, Monero and other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, but some have proved vulnerable to cyberattacks.
This has led to a number of incidents where millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen. In May, 388,000 Bitcoin Gold coins were stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges, resulting in losses over over $17.5m for victims.
The following month, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange lost $31.5 worth of tokens after being hacked, while a Japanese exchange lost $60m as a result of a security incident in August.
These represent just a handful of the large-number of cryptocurrency exchange heists which occurred during 2018.
But is isn't just exchanges that have found themselves losing out after falling victim to cryptocurrency-stealing cyberattacks — businesses, consumers and even governments are also targeted.
Some businesses have got on board with the cryptocurrency craze in an attempt to boost their assets, while others have launched their own cryptocurrency as a means of engaging with customers and encouraging them to use their services.
Meanwhile, millions of individuals have been lured in by the rise of cryptocurrency and have invested in it as a means of getting rich (although many have lost out following the price of bitcoin heavily dropping late last year).
Cryptocurrency enthusiasts store it in digital wallets and many families of information-stealing malware have added the ability to steal from cryptocurrency wallets, providing attackers with an additional means of making money from their victims. Such is the nature of the malware, many won't realise they've become victims of a criminal industry that has cost targets $1.8 billion until it's too late.
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