- The tactics of digital outlaws are becoming increasingly advanced, exploiting techniques like chain and asset swapping to conceal their nefarious deeds.
- A bear market in the digital currency space is discouraging for cybercriminals, leading to a 46% decline in scams compared to previous years.
- The rise of the metaverse presents a new playground for criminals, giving rise to crimes like phishing attacks, non-fungible token theft, wallet tainting, and augmented reality hacks.
Criminals are adapting their tactics and becoming increasingly resourceful. This was the central focus of Tara Annison’s recent discussion at EthCC in Paris. A former leader at Elliptic, a crypto advisory firm, Annison painted a vivid picture of the latest developments in the dark underbelly of the digital currency world.
Notably, Annison explained that the art of money laundering has evolved significantly within the crypto realm. She pointed out that the process of concealing ill-gotten gains has shifted towards chain and asset swapping, making it harder for blockchain analytics companies to detect. This activity accounted for a staggering $4.1 billion, according to Annison.
Interestingly, Annison highlighted that an estimated $1.2 billion in ill-gotten gains eventually find their way to centralized exchanges, having been stolen initially from decentralized exchanges (DEXs). However, there’s a silver lining: scams within the digital currency sector have seen a significant 46% drop, which Annison attributes to the ongoing bear market.
When the allure of cryptocurrency wanes in the face of underperforming markets, it is observed that it becomes less enticing for criminals to conduct their activities in this arena. With the excitement around digital currency deflating and the prices dropping, it’s no longer as rewarding for those engaged in illicit actions. As Annison has noted, it’s crucial to remember that during periods of bearish markets, the likelihood of scams tends to dwindle.
Annison further explored how digital currencies are being used to circumvent international sanctions and fund terrorist activities, with TRON (TRX) and Tether (USDT) gaining notoriety for such misuses.
Navigating Cybercrime in a Digital Economy
As the metaverse concept gains traction, this virtual reality space has become an attractive prospect for criminals. Phishing attacks, non-fungible token thefts, wallet tainting, and augmented reality hacks are emerging as new forms of cybercrime in these virtual worlds.
In her address, Annison underscored the shifting nature of cybercrime in the digital currency sector, emphasizing the need for enhanced security measures to protect users and combat these ever-evolving illicit activities.
The world of Web3 crime is not confined to Bitcoin (BTC) anymore. Criminals are now targeting stablecoins and Ponzi schemes remain rampant, with $7.8 billion pilfered from unsuspecting victims of such scams. They are capitalizing on dollar-denominated assets, such as USD Coin (USDC), which offer ease of access and can be laundered through DEXs.
There’s a glimmer of hope in the fight against digital crime as centralized entities such as Circle wield the ability to halt particular USDC tokens in their tracks. This stops culprits in their steps, preventing them from turning these digital assets into conventional money. As Annison has disclosed, there’s a noticeable uptick in accounts with blacklisted USDC and USDT. This essentially freezes funds, making them inaccessible to the cyber criminals who are attempting to exploit them.