Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis unveiled that payments from crypto-related ransom attacks nearly doubled to $1 billion in 2023. This record-breaking figure, disclosed on Wednesday, underscores the escalating threat posed by cybercriminals in the digital business.
According to Chainalysis, scammers honed in on institutions such as hospitals, schools, and government offices, reaping a hefty sum of $1.1 billion in ransom payments last year alone. This marks a substantial surge from the $567 million recorded in 2022.
Nevertheless, amidst this surge in ransom payments, Chainalysis noted a decline in losses stemming from other crypto-related crimes, including scamming and hacking, throughout 2023.
The meteoric rise in Bitcoin, the foremost cryptocurrency, has also been noteworthy. Surging by 60 percent since the conclusion of September, Bitcoin reached $43,134. Enthusiasm surrounding the debut of a new U.S. bitcoin ETF, coupled with indications of central banks globally trimming interest rates, fueled this surge.
Commenting on the trend, Chainalysis remarked, “An increasing number of new players were attracted by the potential for high profits and lower barriers to entry.” Moreover, the analytics firm highlighted the prevalence of “big game hunting” as the dominant strategy in recent years, with a significant portion of ransom revenue volume comprising payments exceeding $1 million.
Notably, a group of digital extortionists identified as “cl0p” made headlines for their nefarious activities. Exploiting a file-sharing software called MOVEit, the group amassed nearly $100 million in ransom payments. The affected organizations ranged from government departments to prominent entities like the UK’s telecom regulator and energy giant Shell.
In November, a report exposed the cybercrime group “Black Basta,” which extorted over $107 million in bitcoin. Disturbingly, a considerable portion of the laundered ransom payments found their way to the sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex.
Furthermore, cryptocurrency theft via cyberheists and ransomware attacks emerged as a significant source of funding for North Korea, as highlighted in UN reports.
However, it’s important to note that Chainalysis’ figures may underestimate crypto’s role in crime, as it solely tracks cryptocurrency sent to wallet addresses identified as illicit. Notably absent are payments for non-crypto-related crimes, such as crypto used in drug trafficking deals.
In summary, the surge in crypto-related ransom payments underscores the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures and robust regulatory frameworks to combat the growing threat posed by cybercriminals in the digital age.