By Jaydeep Saha, Contributing Writer, HCL Technologies Ltd. 

 

The cryptoverse, including virtual currencies and crypto exchanges, is contributing to increased cyberthreats and cybercrime motivation – and a rise in cybercrime syndicates.

There are many recent examples. The British Army’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were hacked earlier this month and used to post about cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). A hacker in China claimed to have procured 23TB of personal information from the Shanghai police database with the aim of selling it for 10 Bitcoin. Experts say, if true, the Chinese hacking incident would be one of the largest data breaches in history.

In a separate incident, Reuters also reported that US authorities have accused the $615 million March attack on blockchain project Ronin — which powers the popular online game Axie Infinity — on a North Korean hacking operation dubbed the Lazarus Group.

Responding to the threats of rising cyberthreats targeting the cryptoverse, Zhao Changpeng, CEO of Binance, told Reuters that the cryptocurrency exchange had stepped up user verification processes after the exchange’s threat intelligence detected the sale of records belonging to a billion residents of an Asian country on the dark web.

Cyberthreats have existed for some time. A decade ago, FBI Director Robert Mueller warned: “Hackers for profit do not seek information for political power — they seek information for sale to the highest bidder. These once-isolated hackers have joined forces to create criminal syndicates. Organized crime in cyber space offers a higher profit with a lower probability of being identified and prosecuted.”

While the FBI recently added German citizen Ruja Ignatova — accused of defrauding investors of $4 billion by selling fake cryptocurrency OneCoin — to its list of 10 most-wanted fugitives. In a 2021 reports, Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said it received 34,202 complaints related to the use of some type of cryptocurrency, with consumer losses amounting to more than $1.6 billion

How has crypto contributed to the increase in cybercrime?

The anonymity of users, fluctuating value, and the proliferation of many virtual coins, coupled with flawed security and fake hardware, are some of the main reasons behind these cyberattacks. In one of its research projects, Barracuda, a provider of cloud-enabled security solutions, revealed that the price of bitcoin increased by almost 400 percent between October 2020 and April 2021. Impersonation attacks grew 192 percent during the same time. According to Atlas VPN, blockchain hackers are not only targeting crypto holders but also crypto exchanges. Its recent report says in the first half of 2022, criminals have stolen $1.97 billion worth from about 175 crypto project hacks.

TechTarget reported that cryptocurrency has been a pivotal subject during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was included in the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy legalized cryptocurrency by signing a law on virtual assets on March 16.

New research on cryptocurrency published by Flashpoint stated that since February, the cyberthreat intelligence vendor uncovered “262 cryptocurrency addresses used in advertisements for donations to either Ukrainian or Russian causes related to the war”.

What value do cybercriminals see in crypto space?

Interpol says by cryptojacking, cybercriminals secretly use a victim’s computing power to generate cryptocurrency. This usually occurs when the victim unwittingly installs a program with malicious scripts that allow cybercriminals to access their computer or other internet-connected devices.

Programs like ‘coin miners’ are then used to mine cryptocurrencies.

The primary impact of cryptojacking is performance-related, though it can also increase costs for the individuals and businesses affected because coin mining uses high levels of electricity and computing power.

Moving forward, cybercriminals will look to access quantum computers to launch attacks. Organizations will need to invest in and acquire post-quantum blockchain (PQB) and secure cryptocurrency strategies to mitigate this risk.

How can organizations protect themselves from these evolving threats?

According to the 2021 Microsoft’s Zero Trust Adoption Report, in addition to the importance of building a comprehensive defense strategy, to further protect themselves from similar attacks, organizations must also consider complementing multifactor authentication (MFA) with conditional access policies, where sign-in requests are evaluated using additional identity-driven signals like user or group membership, IP location information, and device status, among others.

HCL Technologies’ trusted services

With the rising threats, there is an urgent need to embrace cybersecurity. Besides investing in DNS security and DDoS mitigation, establishing a Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) with bot security is the ideal measure to protect online user experiences. Teaching developers to ensure in-built security via design is crucial. Organizations, like HCL Technologies, have been proving trusted services for over 25 years in this field to its customers across the world.