Crypto ransom attack payments hit record $1 billion in 2023

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Payments from crypto-related ransom attacks nearly doubled to a record $1 billion in 2023, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis said on Wednesday.

Scammers targeting institutions such as hospitals, schools and government offices for ransom pocketed $1.1 billion last year, compared with $567 million in 2022.

However, losses stemming from other crypto-related crimes such as scamming and hacking fell in 2023.

According to Chainalysis, "an increasing number of new players were attracted by the potential for high profits and lower barriers to entry," 

"Big game hunting" has become the dominant strategy over the last few years, with a dominant share of all ransom revenue volume made up of payments of $1 million or more, they added.

A group of digital extortionists named "cl0p", which subverted a file sharing software MOVEit, made nearly $100 million in ransom payments, the analytics company said.

Hundred of organisations, including government departments, UK's telecom regulator and energy giant Shell, have reported cybersecurity breaches involving the MOVEit software tool, which is typically used to transfer large amounts of often sensitive data, including pension information and social security numbers.

A report in November showed that cybercrime group Black Basta had extorted at least $107 million in bitcoin, with much of the laundered ransom payments making their way to the sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex.

Cryptocurrency theft via cyberheists and ransomware attacks is also a significant source of funding for North Korea, according to UN reports.

Chainalysis' figures undervalue crypto's role in all crime as it only tracks cryptocurrency sent to wallet addresses identified as illicit. It does not include payments for non-crypto-related crime such as crypto used in drug trafficking deals.

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