Chainalysis: Crypto Attacks Still Spearing the Small Guy

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  • Chainalysis has revealed small time victims are still a very lucrative source of income for crypto hackers
  • Large scale crypto hacks may grab headlines, but large sums can still be gained in “spray-and-pray” malware attacks
  • The majority of stolen funds still go to centralized exchanges

Chainalysis has revealed that crypto minnows still make up a healthy portion of hackers’ income, despite headline-grabbing exchange hacks continuing. In a preview of its 2022 Crypto Crime Report, Chainalysis reports that unsophisticated attacks are still managing to snag everyday crypto users, with small amounts taken from hundreds of thousands of victims regularly amounting to sometimes more than a more sophisticated exchange hack.

Small Attacks Still Paying Big

Chainalysis says that while targeting “deep-pocketed, professional organizations” like exchanges can result in a bumper payday, the issue of laundering the money can put off some smaller gangs, while the planning and execution can be very time and energy intensive.

In contrast, Chainalysis reports that hackers have recently begun taking a different approach:

With other types of malware, less sophisticated hackers can take a cheaper “spray-and-pray” approach, spamming millions of potential victims and stealing smaller amounts from each individual tricked into downloading the malware. Many of these malware strains are available for purchase on the darknet, making it even easier for less sophisticated hackers to deploy them against victims.

Stolen Money Still Mainly Sent to Centralized Exchanges

Chainalysis explains the four most commonly found types of malware (info stealers, clippers, cryptojackers, and trojans) are all too often found for sale on the dark web, meaning that “even relatively low-skilled cybercriminals can use them to steal cryptocurrency”.

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Cryptojacking was the most used tool by hackers in the past year, making up 73% of the cases Chainalysis looked at. Interestingly, centralized exchanges still remain the most common way hackers cash out their ill-gotten gains, making up over 50% of the activity, although this number has dropped from around 85% two years ago, showing that the methods put in place by exchanges to counter such activity is bearing fruit.

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