Roughly $1.1 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen in the first half of 2018, and unfortunately for owners, it’s pretty easy to do, according to cybersecurity company Carbon Black.
Criminals use what’s known as the dark web to facilitate large-scale cryptocurrency theft. There are now an estimated 12,000 marketplaces and 34,000 offerings related to cryptotheft for hackers to choose from, the company said in a study released Thursday.
“It’s surprising just how easy it is without any tech skill to commit cybercrimes like ransomware,” Carbon Black Security strategist Rick McElroy told CNBC. “It’s not always these large nefarious groups, it’s in anybody’s hands.”
The necessary malware, which McElroy said even occasionally comes with customer service, costs an average of $224 and can be priced as low as $1.04. That marketplace has emerged as a $6.7 million economy, according to the study.
The dark web is a part of the World Wide Web accessible only through special software. It lets users remain anonymous and largely untraceable.
“You just have to able to log in and be able to buy the thing — you can call customer support and they’ll give you tips,” McElroy said.
Thefts can come from organized cartels or crime groups extorting exchanges and companies. But it is often as simple as a highly trained but unemployed engineer looking to make extra cash.
“You have nations that are teaching coding, but there’s no jobs,” McElroy said. “It could just be two people in Romania needing to pay rent.”
As the price of bitcoin skyrocketed more than 1,300 percent last year, new buyers flooded the market. Unlike banks, cryptocurrency is typically not protected or insured by a third party, which first-time investors might not know.