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Blockchain Boom, Crypto Doom

Blockchain investment is on the rise, and the technology will surely make the digital world a safer place. Cryptocurrency, however, which is invariably linked to the blockchain discussion, aims to drag us down.To illustrate, consider the following facts, figures, predictions, and statistics in the 2019 Cybersecurity Almanac, co-published by Cisco and Cybersecurity Ventures:

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  • Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that the global blockchain market will exceed $40 billion by 2025.
  • Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that by 2021 more than 70 percent of all cryptocurrency transactions annually will be for illegal activity, up from current estimates ranging anywhere from 20 percent (of the 5 major cryptocurrencies) to nearly 50 percent (of Bitcoin) in 2017.
  • Around $76 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin, which is close to the scale of the U.S. and European markets for illegal drugs, according to a study published by the University of Sydney in Australia, ranked as one of the top 100 universities globally.
  • Crypto crime is an emerging segment of the cybercrime ecosystem. One report estimates that hacks on cryptocurrency exchanges suffered roughly $1 billion in losses during 2018.
  • The 5 biggest bitcoin hacks of all time — with the exchange name, amount stolen, and year occurred — according to CoinSutra: Mt. Gox, 2609 BTC | +750,000 BTC (2011); BitFloor, 24,000 BTC (2012); Poloniex, 12.3 percent of all BTCs – 97 BTC (2014); BitStamp, 19,000 BTC (2015); Bitfinex, 120,000 BTC (2016).
  • The cost of the 2018 Coincheck hack, the biggest cryptocurrency heist to date, was $530 million. 523 million NEM coins (known as XEM) had been stolen from a hot wallet (a wallet connected to the Internet) allowing hackers to drain the coins into a separate account. The cost of those stolen coins has since declined dramatically.
  • Cryptojacking was one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity threats in 2018, with 25 percent of all businesses already falling victim to it.
  • A report from the Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) indicates a massive 459 percent increase in the rate of crypto-jacking, through which hackers hijack computer processing power to mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Monero.
  • Cryptojacking participants can use more sophisticated means to evade detection and according to one study, only around 50 percent of malicious attacks are detected.
  • On average, most crypto jackers don’t earn much. 1 out of every 500 of the top million Alexa-ranked sites hosts crypto-jacking code. The ten most profitable crypto mining sites identified generate between $119 to $340 per day, according to academics at the Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany. It remains to be seen how many crypto jackers will revert to ransomware, and data theft and resale on the Dark Web for higher payouts.
  • SIM swapping attacks have stolen tens-of-millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency. The compromise involves tricking a mobile carrier employee into rerouting a subscriber’s phone number to a hacker’s SIM card. This enables the perpetrator to intercept the victim’s messages — including 2FA codes, which helps locate the private keys used to access a cryptocurrency account. The first hacker convicted of SIM swapping was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The statistical information for each of these data points is attributed to various sources in the 2019 Cybersecurity Almanac.

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