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Over a Two-Year Period, Hackers Captured $1.3 Billion in Ransom

  • Last year, Chainalysis recorded $602 million in payments.
  • Officials in the United States have sought to curtail cybercrime’s spread

According to a new research from Chainalysis Inc., criminals collected $1.3 billion in ransom payments from hacking victims over the last two years, indicating a tremendous increase in cybercrime that has triggered a global campaign to combat it.

The bitcoin tracking organization stated in a Thursday investigation that it witnessed a significant increase in ransom payments: $602 million in 2021 and $692 million in 2020. According to the research, the 2021 figure is projected to climb and surpass 2020 as new information becomes available.

In comparison, Chainalysis identified payments totaling $152 million in 2019 and $39 million in 2018.

Oftentimes, hacking victims do not disclose that they have been a victim of a breach or that they have paid a cryptocurrency ransom to open their systems. According to analysts, the secrecy is one of the reasons criminal gangs located in Russia and Eastern Europe continue to target businesses in the United States.

The average payment will exceed $118,000 in 2021, up from $88,000 in 2020 and $25,000 in 2019, according to the research.

Wednesday, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia issued a joint notice warning of an increased worldwide danger from ransomware. According to officials, hackers have mastered complex strategies such as professionalized business models and sharing data about possible victims.

After a number of damaging cyberattacks last year, including ransomware attacks against fuel transporter Colonial Pipeline Co. and IT services provider Kaseya Ltd., the Biden administration launched a series of steps to enhance cyber defenses, both in government and the commercial sector.

The White House convened delegates from 30 countries in October to discuss strategies to reduce the amount of security breaches. Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities have attempted to prevent hackers by detaining accused ransomware operators across Europe.

Chainalysis researchers analyzed bitcoin wallets related with suspected ransomware groups in recent years, including the Conti, DarkSide, and Evil Corp gangs.

According to analysts, the Conti ransomware variant produced the most income in 2021. Conti, who is believed to be based in Russia, allegedly extorted at least $180 million from victims. Conti is one of multiple organizations that operate under the ransomware-as-a-service model, in which affiliates purchase ransomware, use it to extort money, and pay Conti a portion of the ransom.

In September, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published a joint alert regarding Conti, listing over 400 incidents, including penetration into law enforcement and medical organizations.

According to Chainalysis’ study, DarkSide, the organization responsible for the Colonial Pipeline attack, extorted the second-largest sum of money from victims last year. Colonial Pipeline stated that it paid DarkSide $4.4 million. In June, the Justice Department revealed that it had recouped $2.3 million of that total.

According to the FBI, victims in the United States reported $29.1 million in ransomware losses in 2,474 complaints in 2020.

 

Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.

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