Bitcoin’s popularity and the emergence of several other digital coins have drawn the attention of hackers into the cryptocurrency space as a whopping $927 million worth of digital currencies was stolen in the first nine months of 2018, according to a report by US-based cyber-security firm CipherTrace. The numbers for cryptocurrency theft through hacking of trading platforms and exchanges are huge and have risen significantly as there is a three-fold increase during the first half of 2018 as compared with the entire 2017. As per a previous report by CipherTrace, just $266 million worth of cryptocurrencies was stolen in 2017.
“Most notable were the $530 million worth of tokens stolen in Japan from Coincheck and $195 million
worth of tokens stolen from BitGrail,” it said in the report.
According to the latest report by CipherTrace, which tracks money laundering and criminal activity in the digital currency market, smaller thefts in the range of $20-60 million have steadily risen, totalling to about $173 million in the third quarter, with more frequent attacks becoming common.
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In just one of multiple attacks that took place this year, Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange Zaif was hacked last month, losing approximately 6.7 billion yen (or about $60 million), worth of bitcoins.
Stolen money from the cryptocurrency space is commonly laundered soon after any theft takes place, as around 380,000 Bitcoin this year- worth around $2.5 billion as of now – since 2009 have been laundered across the world by digital currency exchanges from countries with weak anti-money laundering regulations (AML), according to CipherTrace’ data.
To come to this figure, the cybersecurity firm analysed 350 transactions from the 20 exchanges and found 100 million of those with counterparties. From there, CipherTrace doubled checked the 100 million transactions with its own data on criminal activity. About 97% of direct criminal bitcoin payments are sent to unregulated exchanges, the report said.
“The regulators are still a couple of years behind because there are only a few countries that have really applied strong anti-money laundering laws,” the Reuters quoted Dave Jevans, the chief executive officer of CipherTrace, as saying. CipherTrace analysed the top 20 virtual currency exchanges in terms of volume for this report.
It may be noted that bitcoin prices skyrocketed about 1,300% last year. Typically, cryptocurrency is not insured or protected by a third party, unlike banks, which first-time investors might not know.