Two groups have likely been responsible for the majority of crypto hacks in the past few years, according to investigative body Chanalysis. According to Chainalysis chief economist Philip Gradwell, the two entities have probably been responsible for the theft of more than $1 billion worth of various cryptocurrencies and are likely still active. Chainalysis revealed their findings after tracking stolen funds for three months, but added that there is a margin for error and that they are unable to identify the perpetrators.
Alpha and Beta
The two groups, which Chainalysis has called Aplha and Beta, appear to act in slightly different ways. Alpha is said to be a “giant, tightly controlled organization at least partly driven by non-monetary goals,” while Beta is a smaller, less organized entity that is “heavily sanctioned” and is “absolutely focused on the money”. According to Chainalysis, Aplha and Beta employ an extensive network of digital wallets to obscure their tracks and convert the money to cash through exchanges and individual transactions at a later date, with an average of 5,000 transactions occurring before the funds are cashed out. Alpha tends to sell its ill-gotten gains within thirty days, while Beta can hold onto its stolen crypto for up to eighteen months as they, presumably, wait for the dust to settle before doing anything with the funds.
No Sign of a Let Up
Chainalysis’ findings may come as a surprise to those in the cryptocurrency industry who assumed that hacks were still carried out by individuals or very small collectives rather than organized gangs. With the amount of money present in the ecosystem however and the comparative ease with which hackers can get hold of it compared to with more traditional markets, it’s not really a surprise to see organized crime having a presence. As the recent Cryptopia hack shows, the groups behind these crimes show no sign of slowing up, but every hack presents a new chance to gather more information and potentially identify those responsible.