Cybercrime losses amounted to $600 billion in 2017, with banks and cryptocurrencies the main targets.
Cybercriminals are stealing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to use in various illegal activities because virtual money provides them with anonymity when paying for services, raising funds, or laundering criminal proceeds, according to a joint study by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled “Economic Impact of Cybercrime – No Slowing Down.”
The report said that the growth in cybercrimes over the last three years can be attributed to the quick adoption of new technology by cybercriminals, as well as the ease of engaging in cybercrimes.
McAfee chief technology officer Steve Grobman commented:
“The digital world has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, including risk and crime, so that crime is more efficient, less risky, more profitable and has never been easier to execute… Add to these factors cryptocurrencies that ease rapid monetization, while minimizing the risk of arrest, and you must sadly conclude that the $600 billion cybercrime figure reflects the extent to which our technological accomplishments have transformed the criminal economy as dramatically as they have every other portion of our economy.”
The study found that banks remained the top target for cybercriminals and noted that nation-states are the most dangerous source of cybercrimes, especially when it comes to cryptocurrency theft.
North Korea made cryptocurrency hacking ‘an art form’
According to the researchers, North Korea has turned hacking the Bitcoin exchanges of South Korea into “an art form” and was able to breach three cryptocurrency exchanges in Seoul last year alone.
The theft of cryptocurrencies from South Korean exchanges has helped the impoverished North fund its regime because Bitcoin’s anonymity allows it to circumvent international sanctions and raise much-needed cash.
The researchers added:
“Other countries’ Bitcoin exchanges may have been targeted, and the increase in the value of digital currencies makes them desirable targets… The mixture of anonymizing services like the ‘Tor’ network, digital currencies, and the dark web, creates a parallel universe that gives cybercriminals both an arsenal and a sanctuary.”
Russia emerges as top hacker
Russia, North Korea, and Iran have been identified as the most active attack originators in hacking financial institutions. For their part, China’s cybercriminals are the most active in cyber espionage.
The findings mirror those of a study by ThreatMetrix, whose Q4 2017 Cybercrime Report also named Russia the top attack originator. ThreatMatrix concluded that digital currencies provide opportunities for criminals to engage in fraud and money laundering while remaining anonymous.
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