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Crypto exchanges are popular targets for cyber attackers


Crypto exchanges are popular targets for cyber attackers

Cryptocurrency exchanges have become a popular target for cyber criminals. Cyber criminals often deploy ransomware attacks by running code to encrypt data and then demanding payment in the form of cryptocurrency to release it. Since its launch in 2009, Bitcoin has become the world’s best-known and most popular cryptocurrency exchange, with more than 81 million users worldwide. Because Bitcoin lives in the digital world, Bitcoin users can send it anywhere in the world without any banking infrastructure or exchange fees, fostering peer-to-peer financial transactions.


As identities can be hidden in Bitcoin wallets, it is the obvious choice for cyber criminals to get what they want and remain anonymous. There are an estimated 106 million people worldwide who now use cryptocurrency exchanges. Created 13 years ago, the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was relatively unheard of for the first years of its existence, only used by a small group who sought to retain a level of transactional anonymity. The second cryptocurrency was not created until two years later, but as of January 2022, there are over 8,000 different cryptocurrencies.


There is growing innovation from attackers in the space of cryptocurrency exchange attacks. Consumers, businesses and governments are finding new ways to use cryptocurrency, but a recent string of cyber-attacks has highlighted security risks and shortcomings. There is rising concern that “there will be a hack and my money will vanish”. According to blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis, the total value of cryptocurrencies held by illicit wallet addresses worldwide soared by 79% last year to $14 billion from $7.8 billion in 2020. Crypto investors lost over $2.8 billion globally to various crypto scams in 2021. Illicit address refers to wallets used for cyber-attacks, Ponzi schemes and other scams. In many instances, cybercriminals use channels such as WhatsApp and Telegram to scam young crypto owners with the promise of doubling their money.



In a few cases, we have seen employees of cryptocurrency exchanges sharing databases of cryptocurrency owners with cybercriminals, who use this information to start cyberattacks using SMS or even WhatsApp messages with phishing links to take over crypto accounts. It’s relatively easy for tech entrepreneurs to set up an exchange nearly anywhere in the world and run it however they like. This brings the opportunity for the hackers to make billions of dollars in virtual assets in the past year by compromising some of the cryptocurrency exchanges that have emerged during the bitcoin boom.


Exchanges are now lucrative targets for hackers. One of the biggest heists happened in early December, when the crypto trading platform Bitmart announced that hackers broke into a company account and stole almost $200 million. The company froze all customer transactions for three days before it allowed them to trade their money again.

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