The hidden riches of cybercrime: A startling look at bitcoin earnings

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Cybercrime is a big problem in our digital world, and a new study has just shown that it might be an even bigger issue than we thought, especially regarding the money involved.

Researchers Gibran Gomez, Kevin van Liebergen, and Juan Caballero from the IMDEA Software Institute have taken a deep dive into the world of cybercriminals’ earnings, particularly focusing on Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency.

Their study, called “Cybercrime Bitcoin Revenue Estimations: Quantifying the Impact of Methodology and Coverage,” was a big part of a major conference in 2023.

It looks at how much money cybercriminals are really making and suggests that previous estimates might have been way off.

Usually, experts think that we underestimate how much cybercriminals make because it’s hard to track all their Bitcoin addresses, which are like account numbers where they get paid by their victims.

This new research shows that the gap between what we thought and the actual numbers might be huge. It also points out that some methods used to guess these earnings could be either too high or too low.

The researchers looked closely at over 30,000 payment addresses used by cybercriminal groups. These groups are involved in all sorts of illegal activities online, like ransomware (where they lock up your computer and demand money), scamming people with fake giveaways, and even running Ponzi schemes (where they trick people into investing in something that’s not real).

A big part of their research was analyzing the DeadBolt ransomware.

This nasty software locks up data on servers connected to the internet and then demands money to unlock it. The team managed to find all the payment addresses linked to DeadBolt and figured out that it made about $2.47 million.

That’s a shocking 39 times more than what was previously thought.

This discovery doesn’t just tell us that cybercrime is a lucrative business; it also highlights how important it is to use the right methods to track these earnings accurately.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are a favorite among cybercriminals. In fact, in 2022, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported that cryptocurrencies were the most common way fraud victims lost their money, even more than traditional methods like credit cards or bank transfers.

Bitcoin is the most popular, followed by others like Ethereum, Monero, and Cardano.

The findings of this research are crucial for the cybersecurity and law enforcement communities. It shows that we need to constantly improve our methods and tools to effectively fight against these digital crimes.

Understanding the true scale of cybercrime and how it operates financially is vital in developing strategies to combat it.

In summary, this study is more than just numbers and data. It’s a vital step in understanding the true size and scope of cybercrime, particularly in the world of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

It shows the importance of adapting and evolving our methods to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of digital criminal activity.