A pair of hacker groups dubbed Alpha and Beta are believed to be behind cryptocurrency thefts totalling $1bn over recent years.
Analytics and security firm Chainalysis say the two groups account for 60% of all publicly reported crypto thefts.
Alpha is described as “a giant, tightly controlled organisation at least partly driven by non-monetary goals.”
Beta was dubbed “a less organised and smaller organisation absolutely focused on the money.”
Analysts added: “They don’t appear to care very much about evading detection.”
Chainalysis wrote on their website that there’s “no question” hacking will continue as it is the most lucrative of all crypto crimes.
‘$90 million per hack’
Chainalysis added: “On average, the hacks we traced from the two prominent hacking groups stole $90 million per hack.
“The hackers typically move stolen funds through a complex array of wallets and exchanges in an attempt to disguise the funds’ criminal origins.
“The hackers then often observe a quiet period of 40 or more days in which they don’t move funds, waiting until interest in the theft has died down.
“Once they feel safe, they move quickly. At least 50% of the hacked funds are cashed out through some conversion service within 112 days.”
Until now, exchanges and law enforcement have had limited ability to track hacked funds, Chainalysis claims.
The company adds: “Exchanges are regularly processing the stolen funds, allowing the hackers to convert the funds to traditional currencies or other cryptocurrencies.
“This is in part because unless you’re the exchange that was hacked, these funds look like they have come from legitimate owners (that is, the original entities who were hacked); it is hard to tell which funds have been stolen and which haven’t without specialised investigation software.”