Investigations | June 12, 2024

Thirteen years of crypto crimes unveiled

by Conrad Eliott

Content Writer

The cryptocurrency landscape is continually evolving, as are the methods of those exploiting it. Our new report sheds light on the dark side of this digital frontier. 

Entitled “Adolescent Anarchy: Thirteen Years of Crypto Crimes Unveiled,” this study analyzes 785 incidents from June 19, 2011, to March 6, 2024, offering a sobering overview of the state of crypto security and fraud over the years. 

Key findings 

The report reveals that nearly $19 billion in crypto has been stolen over thirteen years. This staggering total includes: 

– $6 billion from security system breaches 

– just under $5 billion from decentralized finance (DeFi) hacks 

– almost $8 billion from various frauds 

The largest ever single theft, the 2019 Plus Token fraud, saw criminals abscond with $2.9 billion worth of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). 

Shifting trends in crypto crimes 

While early years were dominated by crypto exchange security breaches, recent times have seen more DeFi hacks and crypto frauds.  

The year 2023 alone marked the highest number of theft incidents with 286 reported cases, totaling over $2.3 billion in losses.  

In contrast, 2022 holds the record for the costliest year with nearly $4.2 billion lost to various crypto crimes. And to date, 2022 also saw  the highest number of DeFi hacks with 132 reported incidents. 

In the first quarter of 2024, the largest single crypto theft was the PlayDapp Security Breach (South Korea): on February 10, 2024, hackers stole $290 million worth of ETH. 

By comparison, the highest-value crypto theft during the first quarter of the previous year was the March 2023 Euler Finance DeFi hack, which resulted in a loss of $197 million of ETH and impacted various other exchanges. 

Implications for compliance and security 

Crystal Intelligence’s report underscores the urgent need for enhanced security measures and stronger regulatory frameworks to combat these escalating threats.  

As crypto crimes become more sophisticated, the tools and strategies to counter them must also evolve. This report aims to educate stakeholders and drive the development of more robust defence mechanisms within the crypto community. 

The insights from this report are invaluable for compliance teams and investigators. They highlight not only the financial impact but also the changing nature of threats, guiding where to focus efforts in strengthening defences and ensuring regulatory compliance. 

Takeaways for crypto compliance teams 

  • Strengthening security protocols  

Enhancing security measures can help prevent large-scale breaches like the PlayDapp and Euler Finance incidents. 

  • Targeted threat assessments
    Given the varying nature of criminal methods deployed, region-specific and asset-specific threat assessments are crucial. 
  • Regulatory Engagement
    Active engagement with regulators is necessary to shape and comply with emerging frameworks will mitigate risks. 

Crystal Intelligence’s comprehensive report clearly calls for action: the crypto industry must bolster its defenses and regulatory practices to protect against an increasingly sophisticated array of threats. 

To learn how we can help you solve crypto investigations, please book in a demo here. 

Adolescent Anarchy: Thirteen Years of Crypto Crimes Unveiled

Crystal’s report 2024

In this report you will learn about the trends in crypto crime, the latest methods employed by fraudsters and the top Defi hacks!

Download the report

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