$19bn crypto assets stolen since 2011

The Crystal Intelligence report calls for tighter security measures

Crystal Intelligence recently published a report called “Adolescent Anarchy: 13 Years of Crypto Crime Exposed” that takes an extended look into the dark side of the crypto industry. Covering 785 incidents between June 19, 2011, to March 6, 2024, the report shows that over $19bn in crypto was stolen throughout thirteen years.

There are three main categories that these losses fall under in the report: security system breaches ($6bn), decentralized finance (defi) hacks (just under $5bn), and various frauds ($8bn).

One of the most significant thefts was carried out by criminals during the Plus Token scam of 2019 where they took off with $2.9bn worth of Bitcoin and Ethereum. This is still recognized as being one of if not the biggest single theft ever recorded within cryptocurrency history.

Over time, the types of crimes committed using cryptocurrencies have changed as well. In the beginning, it was mainly through security breaches at exchanges where people would get robbed but now more frequently there are attacks on defi systems along with just general fraud.

In 2023 alone there were 286 reported cases resulting in over $2.3bn lost which makes it the year with the most incidents thus far.

One notable heist within the crypto gambling sector was targeted at crypto gambling platform Stake.com, which saw $41m in different cryptocurrencies disappear in September 2023. Later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified North Korean hackers Lazarus Group as the culprits.

However, when taking into account how much money was taken from individuals’ pockets, 2023 was actually not as bad compared to previous years such as 2022 which had almost $4.2bn stolen from investors’ hands along with having seen 132 different defi hacks occur.

However, the first quarter of 2024 witnessed another large theft – the PlayDapp security breach experienced in South Korea. Hackers managed to loot a sum of $290m in Ethereum. This event broke the record of the highest theft of last year, the Euler Finance defi hack where $197m was stolen.

It is clear from Crystal Intelligence’s report that security needs to be tightened up before more incidents like these occur. It is important to remember that the methods used by criminals vary greatly depending on where they are located, so region-specific and asset-specific threat assessments will need to become more common practice moving forward.

The sophistication level behind these crimes suggests there should be tighter regulations put in place as well which means that engaging with regulators while frameworks are still being created could save a lot of trouble down the line.

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Written by Silvia Pavlof

Silvia has explored various forms of writing, ranging from content creation for social media to crafting movie scripts. Drawing on her experience as a journalist specializing in the gambling sector, she is currently investigating the impact of cryptocurrencies and blockchain on traditional gambling and iGaming.