While cryptocurrency scams have proliferated this year, governments have done their best to keep up. In the United States, authorities have recently closed two such cases, with operators of separate scams receiving sentences.
Hackers Deploy Phishing and Ransomware Attacks
Yesterday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of the Treasury announced that it had imposed sanctions on two Russian citizens who deployed a phishing campaign to steal from three digital asset exchanges in 2017 and 2018.
Per the statement, both men — named Danil Potekhin and Dmitrii Karasavidi — created impersonator websites for legitimate crypto exchanges and directed customers there. Armed with customer information, they proceeded to siphon users’ funds and move them through different intermediaries.
The statement was also signed by the Homeland Security Department and the Department of Justice. It confirmed that two of the exchanges were based in the United States, with the hackers’ loot totalling about $16.8 million.
The men were also accused of using their funds to target low-market cap altcoins via a series of pump-and-dump schemes. On the same day, the Justice Department announced that its agents had arrested two hackers in Malaysia. The hackers had conducted various hacking campaigns targeting non-profits, governments, universities, and companies internationally. By penetrating computer infrastructure, they managed to steal proprietary business data, customer information, and more.
Armed with the information, they conducted more ransomware and cryptojacking schemes. Botha re facing possible 77-year jail terms, although five of their co-conspirators — all Chinese — are still at large.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates the ramifications faced by the hackers in China but it is also a reminder to those who continue to deploy malicious cyber tactics that we will utilize every tool we have to administer justice,” said David Bowdich, the Deputy Director of the FBI.
Crypto-Based Cybercrimes Aren’t Letting Up
Despite the ramped-up enforcement, crypto scams are still on the rise. Authorities remain underprepared for the threat, and this trend seems likely to continue. In 2019, crypto scams took in more than $4 billion from victims. According to data from cryptocurrency intelligence firm CipherTrace, things could be much worse in 2020.
CipherTrace confirmed that the volume of crypto funds siphoned from asset custodians in the first five months of the year was $1.4 billion. At this pace, the company believes that 2020 could easily outpace 2019’s volumes. The firm attributed 2020’s uptick to the coronavirus and increased reliance on the internet for people and companies to continue with their activities. With the pandemic still rampant and more companies adopting remote working schedules for the meantime, things could get worse.
As expected, the threat of malware isn’t confined to the United States alone. This year alone, researchers have come across a wave of malware operations in foreign countries, with hackers targeting individuals and firms with lesser security standards than those in the United States.
Security remains a top concern for cryptocurrency holders and anyone who regularly surfs the web. In a world that is continuously changing, regulators will need to bolster their enforcement efforts more.