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Eastern Europe Has Highest Concentration of Criminal Crypto Activity 

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North Korean Hacking Group Lazarus Is Relentlessly Trying to Steal Cryptocurrency
North Korean Hacking Group Lazarus Is Relentlessly Trying to Steal Cryptocurrency

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Cryptocurrency-related crime is no new thing for the industry. This year alone, thousands of individuals and companies have fallen victim to some form of criminal activity or the other. However, a new report has revealed that most of these attacks appear to be originating from the Eastern Europe region.

Eastbound and Down

Earlier this month, top blockchain analytics company Chainalysis published its 2020 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report. The firm explained that Eastern Europe is the base point for most of the world’s Dark Web activity.

As the report pointed out, Eastern Europe churned out $41 billion in crypto volumes in the past year. Of that number, however, 1.2 percent was sent to illicit business entities. While the percentage is slightly behind Latin America (which sends 1.6 percent of its volumes to illicit enterprises), it beats out other regions as far as monetary value is concerned.

Eastern Europe’s criminal problem is so significant that its sixth-largest crypto service appears to be a Dark Web platform. Known as Hydra, the platform functions as an anonymous free market that facilitates trade between parties. Per Chainalysis, the platform generated over $1.2 billion in crypto revenues between July 2019 and July 2020.

Chainalysis also highlighted that Eastern Europe houses the highest-earning ransomware network administrators. 23 percent of the funds destined for ransomware services get sent here from across the world.

Crypto Criminals’ Cashing Out

Generally, it’s been quite a good year for darknet operators and criminals across the board. Ransomware and malware actors have been on the prowl, taking advantage of businesses’ need to continue their operations on the internet. It’s becoming a case of more than one crypto malware attack per week, at least.

In June, digital asset intelligence firm CipherTarce reported that the volume of ill-gotten gains stolen through cryptocurrency crimes across the first five months of the year stood at a staggering $1.36 billion. However, the company added that of those funds, 98 percent – marking almost $1.3 billion — can be traced back to misappropriation and fraud, as opposed to direct thefts and hacks.

Despite the predominance, CipherTrace believes that at this pace, the total volume of stolen cryptocurrencies for the year could break the $4.5 billion mark that crypto thieves set in 2019. Most criminals have capitalized on the global pandemic, sending phishing attacks, fraud messages, and ransomware bugs to companies and individuals disguised as healthcare organizations.

As for the Dark Web, crypto activity has been on the rise as well. In July, Chainalysis reported that illegal markets on the secluded internet section now hold almost one million BTC tokens.

Per a report at the time, illegal markets have 585,000 BTC in their possession, while scammers have 99,000 BTC. Another 205,000 is represented in stolen funds, while a combination of others holds an additional 3,000 BTC.

While most will attribute the surge in criminal activity and crypto-fueled dealings on the Dark Web to the pandemic, the truth is that unscrupulous actors have continued to evolve their methods.

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