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Ransomware Up, but Crypto Crime Down Overall in 2023

Last Updated January 18, 2024 4:22 PM
James Morales
Last Updated January 18, 2024 4:22 PM

Key Takeaways

  • According to Cyberint, there were 55% more ransomware attacks in 2023 than the previous year.
  • However, Chainalysis has reported that the proceeds from crypto crime fell overall.
  • Revenues from hacking and scams declined by 29.2% and 54.3% respectively. 

The umbrella term “crypto crime” encompasses a variety of illegal activities, including fraud and embezzlement, hacking, theft, evading sanctions, and selling illegal goods. In its latest report  on the issue, Chainalysis classified the beneficiaries of $24.2 billion worth of crypto according to 14 categories, identifying the volume of illicit fund flows based on known criminal addresses.  

The analysis found that overall, criminal cryptocurrency transactions declined by nearly 40% in 2023, falling to $24.2 billion from $39.6 billion the year before. However, the decline wasn’t distributed evenly, and some categories of crypto crime have trended upward.

Ransomware Surges in 2023 

Bucking the general trend, Chainalysis found that revenues generated by ransomware increased in 2023. 

Observing the same trend, the cybersecurity firm Cyberint reported  a 55.5% year-on-year increase in ransomware victims in 2023, which it said was the most successful year ever for ransomware groups.

Of the 4,368 victims identified, 64% were located in the US, while the UK and Canada were the next most targeted countries. The most targeted sector was business services, followed by retail and manufacturing. Lockbit was the most active ransomware group.

According to Chainalysis, Bitcoin accounted for the vast majority of ransom payments. It is also the most popular payment method for other forms of crypto crime, powering the bulk of illegal darknet transactions.

Scamming and Hacking Revenues Fall 

Among the categories of crypto crime that declined in 2023, scamming and hacking revenue fell by 29.2% and 54.3% respectively. 

crypto crime revenues
  Cryptocurrency received by illicit addresses.

Observing that crypto scams peaked in  2021, Chainalysis said: “scamming is most successful when markets are up, exuberance is high, and people feel like they are missing out on an opportunity to get rich quickly,” implying that market conditions may have had a suppressive effect the on scam revenues.

Meanwhile, the report argued that the lower volume of transactions related to hacking was the result of a sharp dropoff in DeFi the number of DeFi hacks.

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