Ransomware a bigger threat than ever: 2023 Crypto Crime Mid-Year Update

by | Aug 2, 2023 | Security, Business

Chainanalysis, a data firm that specializes in blockchain information, has released a mid-year report on crypto crime.  

Ransomware comes out swinging 

So far in 2023, ransomware is the only type of cryptocurrency-based crime that has seen an increase in activity. Ransomware is responsible for a whopping $449.1 million in losses through June 2023, making it the second-biggest year ever. By the end of the year, Chainanalysis predicts nearly $900 million stolen through ransomware. 2021 has seen the biggest revenue of ransomware with $939 million. Either way, ransomware will soon become a billion-dollar industry.  

Courtesy of Chainanalysis

Ransomware is becoming more prolific and profitable in part because threat actors have returned to big game hunting, targeting larger organizations with deeper wells. Simultaneously, ransomware attacks on smaller targets have also increased.  

Andrew Davis at expert cybersecurity and incident response firm Kivu says that these numbers align with what the firm has seen: “growing number of extremely high initial demands, ranging in the tens and hundreds of millions.”  

These large asks could be in part because fewer paid out to 2022 ransomware demands; with better broader security across organizations, threat actors are forced to go big to get a return. Davis has also seen more extreme ends: an increase in more extreme extortion, including harassment of employees. 

Courtesy of Chainanalysis

2023 sees a fall in Cryptocurrency-related Activities 

At first, it seems like good news: cryptocurrency-related crime is “significantly down this year.” Chainanalysis separates this related crime into the categories illicit and risky. 2023 is falling behind 2022 and 2021 in both respects. Illicit activities, for example, are down 65% compared to this time in 2022.  

Historically, scams have yielded the best returns for threat actors using cryptocurrency as payment. That is still true in 2023, but it has seen a massive drop. Scammers have pulled in 77% less revenue than they did in 2022, a year which saw its own drop in revenue.  

The Bright Side 

Even as cryptocurrency usage increased, crime conducted with cryptocurrency has lessened overall. It’s good news. This could represent the collective efforts of users, private organizations, and public institutions. With proper security configurations, organizations can remain warily hopeful. But the best protection comes with choosing to adopt a cyber insurance policy, in case the worst does happen.