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Crypto crime drops, but Bitcoin-ransomware increased in 2020!

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Blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis found that cryptocurrency-related crimes fell by more than 53% last year and that crypto activity that was connected to crimes was a mere 0.34% of transaction volume or $10 billion worth of transfers.

This is still much lower than criminal activity numbers reported in 2019, which represented 2.1% ($21.4 billion) of all cryptocurrency transaction volume. 

However, the Chainlaysis team expects last year’s percentage of criminal activity to rise because some addresses remain unidentified. Especially those in connection with PlusToken scam that swindled $6 billion from 715,000 victims. 

Additionally, researchers were able to track the kinds of crime connected to last year’s crypto transactions associated with illicit activity. Unlike 2019, when scams dominated criminal activity, ransomware accounted for 7.1% of all funds received by criminal addresses in 2020. This was estimated to be under $350 million in cryptocurrency. Chainalysis team found the figure alarming because it represents a 311% increase over 2019.

Source: Chainalysis

The team further explained: 

No other category of cryptocurrency-based crime rose so dramatically in 2020, as Covid-prompted work-from-home measures opened up new vulnerabilities for many organizations.

Moreover, Chainalysis further said that ransomware estimates could be higher due to underreporting. They believed that total ransomware payments figures in 2020 will increase upon the identification of “more addresses associated with different strains” especially in the last few months of 2020. 

In Q4 last year, cybersecurity firm Check Point found that “an exceptional number of Israeli companies” reported Bitcoin ransomware attacks and that “several large corporations” experienced a full-blown attack with ransomware named Pay2Key.

While in US, several private and government companies, universities and hospitals, became victims of Bitcoin ransomware attacks in 2020. 


Alisha is a full-time journalist at AMBCrypto. Her interests lie in blockchain technology, crypto-crimes, and market developments in Africa and the United States
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