Cybercriminals have reaped $1.4 billion through crypto cybercrimes so far this year

Criminals have capitalised on the coronavirus scare to fool users into shelling out their crypto

Crypto scammer
There is an urgent call for regulators and governments to act on the rise in cybercrimes amidst the pandemic.

Between January and May 2020, cryptocurrency crimes have already totalled $1.4 billion. Experts believe that on its current trajectory, this year could be the highest in stolen crypto, second only to 2019’s $4.5 billion, according to a report by CipherTrace.

A factor in the growth of cases is the rise in coronavirus-related crypto scams, fueled by the COVID-19 content that flooded social media.

Many criminals posed as legitimate sources of news on the pandemic, only to steal money or commit fraud.

Another report, entitled the Spring 2020 Cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering and Crime, assessed the different strategies that cybercriminals are employing to carry out their cryptocurrency offences. While anti-money laundering (AML) measures have been effective in filtering out these attempts, hackers appear to continue to find more sophisticated ways for their malicious intentions.

Fraud inspired by the coronavirus is one of the most popular forms of attack. Government and public officials have allocated large amounts of funding into mitigating the economic, as well as the health impact,s of the virus,  resulting in a lack of regulatory oversight and enforcement on AML. The report found that actors with malicious intent have used this as an opportunity to target victims.

One angle that scammers have profited from significantly is the fear generated by the health crisis. The scammers fool individuals into seeking information on healthcare, buying nonexistent or placebo-type medication and products or to donate to fake relief efforts.

The fraud is usually carried out by convincing uninformed users to leave a “trustworthy” dark market site and enter a messaging platform where the scammer proceeds to convince the victim to shell out cryptocurrencies in exchange for information , PPE, medicine, and other supplies that are currently in demand.

The report also remarked on the increase in darknet markets that have popped up, claiming to sell COVID-19 diagnostic tests, secret vaccines or other related cures.

There are strains of ransomware that have also used the disease’s name to obtain leverage. Some names include the Corona Ransomware, CoronaVi2022, N2019cov and SARS-CoV-2.

Many strains of ransomware, while not related to the coronavirus, are targeting hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Android applications that give the appearance of being related to the coronavirus have also become a common form of attack. The criminal creates and advertises applications that claim to offer information about the virus; however, its real purpose is to allow the attacker to spy on the user, encrypt their device, and then hold it for ransom. The report found that two well-known apps on the market are the COVID19 Tracker and Wisecleaner.best (coronaVi2022).

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