Cybercrime just got much worse than we thought. Cybercriminals’ crypto revenue has been largely underestimated and is actually much higher than previously thought. All those millions we thought they stole? It’s not even close to what they were ACTUALLY stealing.
According to the report, previously, analysts have underestimated cybercriminal earnings because they didn’t have all the details about their activities, like the Bitcoin addresses the crims use to get money from victims.
The new research not only confirms this underestimation but also shows some methods of estimating earnings can be way off. The researchers developed a tool that avoids these errors and then reported what the crims are actually making.
The study’s results are based on an examination of over 30,000 payment addresses that different cybercriminal groups use.
The crims with these addresses were busy wreaking havoc with ransomware, clipper scams, sextortion, Ponzi schemes, giveaway scams, and cryptocurrency exchange scams.
Cybercrime and the underestimation of criminal earnings
One significant finding is that the researchers were able to measure how much the underestimation really is.
According to the report, “The researchers are able to identify the complete set of payment addresses belonging to DeadBolt, estimating its revenue at US$2.47 million (AU$3.68), a figure 39 times higher than previous estimates.”
According to the report, The US$2.47m amount is only 2.6% of the total estimated amount to have been stolen by the Deadbolt ransomware that year.
It seems that law enforcement have so, so much more to do when it comes to innovation in fighting cybercrime.
Crypto of choice
Interestingly, the study also shows the cybercriminals’ cryptos of choice, with Bitcoin being the most popular, followed by Ethereum, and then more distantly the privacy coin Monero, and then Cardano.
This study actually goes against an earlier study carried out in 2022 that showed that crims were moving away from using Bitcoin.
The study of activity in 2022, found that Bitcoin was losing its popularity as the preferred choice for illicit transactions, as more criminals are switching to other blockchains and platforms. TRON replaced Bitcoin as the most common crypto for funding terrorists.
Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain became more attractive to hackers who stole crypto from exchanges.