Earlier this year, hackers made off with $530 million worth of NEM coins at Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck. As it turns out, that was only the tip of the iceberg. According to a recently released report by cybersecurity research firm Carbon Black, cryptocurrencies worth $1.1 billion has already been stolen this year.
Cryptocurrency hacking is a $6.7 million business on the dark web, according to the report, titled "Cryptocurrency Gold Rush on the Dark Web." It encompasses sophisticated to crude malware, storefronts on the dark web and unemployed engineers looking to make rent money. Hacking may sound like a highly technical actively, but it is fairly easy, according to Rick McElroy, security strategist at Carbon Black.
Hacking begins with purchase of malware. The dark web is the main transaction hub for such deals and has 12,000 markets for 34,000 products related to crypto hacking. "As was the case during the physical gold rush in the mid-1800s, there are criminals looking to exploit innocent parties of their earnings. Carbon Black has found that modern-day cybercriminals are increasingly using the dark web to facilitate cryptocurrency theft on a large scale," writes McElroy. According to the report, malware can cost as low as $1.04 and go up in price to as much as $1,000. The average price, according to the report, is $224. It can used to slow down processing speeds to evade or delay detection software. (See also: Bitcoin Mass Hysteria: The Disaster That Brought Down Mt. Gox.)
The Hacker Mystique, and Reality
In the popular immagination, hackers are brilliant teams or individuals driven by perverse ideology. But cryptocurrency hackers seem to be driven by the more mundane and practical necessities of life, such as the need to pay rent. “You have nations that are teaching coding but there’s no jobs. It could just be people in Romania needing to pay rent,” McElroy is quoted as saying. The most popular targets for hackers are cryptocurrency exchanges, which account for 27% of all hacks, and businesses, which account for 21%. In the case of businesses, hackers target internal systems and demand cryptocurrency as ransom.
With 44% of all hackers demanding it as ransom, Monero is the preferred currency of choice because its extensive privacy features make it easy to cover their footprints. Ethereum trumps bitcoin with 11% of all hackers preferring it as compared to 10% of all bitcoin advocates. That makes sense when you consider the run up in ethereum’s prices earlier this year. Meanwhile bitcoin has been on a downward slide since the start of this year.
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