Cryptocurrency Hackers Steal $3.8B in 2020

Published: 14 January 2021

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Attacks against blockchain wallets earnt hackers an average of $112 million per breach. (Photo: MichaelWuensch, Pixabay, License)

By Will Neal

Cybercriminals robbed victims of almost US$4 billion across 122 attacks against cryptocurrency platforms and holdings last year, according to a recent report.

Atlas VPN, a virtual private network provider, said on Tuesday that the overwhelming majority of these losses stemmed from attacks against blockchain wallets —  digital resources that allow users to store and manage cryptocurrency — with hackers netting a total of $3.03 billion at an average of $112.12 million per breach.

Cryptocurrency exchanges also proved key targets, with 28 breaches over the past twelve months resulting in $300 million worth of losses.

The global coronavirus pandemic has seen an explosion in illegal activity online, with the United Nations warning of an increase in internet-enabled criminality of more than 600% by the middle of last year, at an average rate of one attack taking place every 40 seconds.

Most notable had been the meteoric rise in the number of pandemic-related phishing scams, leveraging pervasive fears among the public so as to extort money from victims, as well the increased incidence of malware attacks against public and private institutions alike.

Atlas VPN nevertheless noted in its report that the attacks against cryptocurrency platforms in 2020 had actually failed to top the record-breaking number observed in 2019.

The decline may owe to the sheer extent of attacks across the previous year, when 33 hacks were recorded in January alone, or perhaps the increased value of cryptocurrency, with growing investment online amid economic downturn, or even simply the growth in opportunities for internet-enabled criminality in other areas.