According to a new document published by blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis, nearly $9 billion in crypto funds were laundered last year by cybercriminals. Overall, as much as $8.6 billion was placed in illegitimate projects and companies or washed to appear legitimate.
Chainalysis Says Nearly $9 Billion Was Laundered
The good news is that while this number is about 30 percent larger than the number witnessed in the year 2020, it is considerably smaller than the $10.9 billion that was laundered in 2019. This suggests that criminal activity in the digital currency world is going down. It is also much smaller than the near $33 billion that was laundered in the year 2017. Perhaps digital currency companies now know a thing or two about ending criminal streaks and implementing appropriate security tactics.
Kim Grauer – the head of research at Chainalysis – explained in an interview:
Many of the hacks we saw this year were of defi protocols, so it makes sense that the funds were sent to defi services that can handle large amounts of liquidity from really any token you can imagine. We also know that criminals are always the fastest to adapt to the use of new technologies to evade detections, and this year was no different.
The Chainalysis report discusses this further and explains:
This may be related to the fact that more cryptocurrency was stolen from defi protocols than any other type of platform last year. We also see a substantial amount of mixer usage in the laundering of stolen funds. Scammers, on the other hand, send most of their funds to addresses at centralized exchanges. This may reflect scammers’ relative lack of sophistication. Hacking cryptocurrency platforms to steal funds takes more technical expertise than carrying out most scams we observe, so it makes sense that those cybercriminals would employ a more advanced money laundering strategy.
Grauer also explained that much of the money was laundered by criminal rings in regions like North Korea, stating:
The amount of money going to mixers, particularly from bad actors such as North Korean hacking groups, continues to grow in significance.
A Small Amount of Addresses?
In addition, the report explained that much of the criminal funds were concentrated in a small number of addresses, though things were still more spread out than normal. The document says:
An even smaller group of 45 addresses received 24 percent of all funds sent from illicit addresses for a total of just under $1.1 billion. One deposit address received just over $200 million, all from wallets associated with the Finiko Ponzi scheme. While money laundering activity remains quite concentrated, it’s less so than in 2020. That year, 55 percent of all cryptocurrencies sent from illicit addresses went to just 270 service deposit addresses. Law enforcement action could be one possible reason money laundering activity became less concentrated.