Crypto crimes on the rise, Europol warns

The EU's law enforcement agency reports that crypto exchanges, miners and wallet holders are facing increasing extortion, threats of hacking and theft, while money launderers continue to use Bitcoin

Europol has released its fifth yearly Internet Organised Crime Assessment, highlighting cyber attacks of unprecedented scope and scale. The report covers everything from crypto jacking and criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies to ransomware, child exploitation-related information, the darknet and card-not-present fraud.

Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, says in the foreword that the report “brings to our attention previously underestimated threats” that result in “significant financial losses, criminal gains and the facilitation of other crimes”.

Increasing criminal abuse

The document notes that “as the criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies grows, currency users and exchangers become targets”.

Europol claims that criminals are increasingly abusing cryptocurrencies to fund criminal activities.

“While Bitcoin has lost its majority of the overall cryptocurrency market share, it remains the primary cryptocurrency encountered by law enforcement,” the report adds. “ In a trend mirroring attacks on banks and their customers, cryptocurrency users and facilitators have become victims of cybercrimes themselves.”

Decentralised exchanges part of the problem

Europol blames the rise of these crimes to “new developments such as decentralised exchanges which allow exchanges without any Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements. It is likely that high-privacy cryptocurrencies will make the current mixing services and tumblers obsolete”.

It highlights that there’s a new cybercrime trend, dubbed “crypto jacking”, which it says is the exploitation of internet users’ bandwidth and processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.

“While it is not illegal in some cases, it nonetheless creates additional revenue streams and therefore motivation for attackers to hack legitimate websites to exploit their visitor systems,” Europol sates. “Actual crypto mining malware works to the same effect, but can cripple a victims system by monopolising their processing power.”

Cryptojacking is popular among criminals because it allows operating with little to no engagement with their victims, which in turn, exposes them to minimal law enforcement attention.

Europol claims that criminals are relentless and will undoubtedly continue to abuse cryptocurrencies.

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