TRM Labs, a leading blockchain analysis firm focused on preventing cybercrime, has released a comprehensive report on the illicit sums lost to bad actors in the crypto space in 2022.
The figures are quite notable, especially given the declining prices and interest in the market last year.
Improved Cybersecurity Measures
In spite of the plummeting value of various digital assets due to crypto winter and the myriad collapses that accompanied it, the number of scams and thefts in the industry has not decreased significantly, at most staying in proportion to similar cases in previous years.
For instance, over $12 billion were lost to DeFi exploits in 2021. Although this figure dwarfs the $3.7 billion lost to exploits in 2022, it’s worth noting that those $12 billion represent a sevenfold increase in DeFi exploits over the prior year, making 2022 an outlier by any measure.
In 2022, $3.7 billion was stolen across over 175 incidents, each of which resulted in an average loss of $20 million for the investors of the exploited projects. It’s worth noting that the smart contracts that were the main target of DeFi exploits in 2021 seem to have improved – only about 10% of cyberattacks in 2022 were protocol exploits, with the remaining 90% targeting the rest of the platforms’ infrastructure.
Investors Still Enticed by Illicit Platforms
About $7.8 billion were lost to pyramid schemes and similar Ponzi platforms in 2022. If other scams – such as romance frauds and phishing attacks – are taken into calculation, the crypto community lost over $9 billion in 2022 alone.
Although the pyramid scheme-type frauds at least provided some sort of value to investors until they ignominiously collapsed, the rate of fraudulent investment platforms and tokens – often offering a mere pipe dream – doubled in 2022, resulting in a total of $2.57 billion worth of crypto outright stolen from investors worldwide.
Meanwhile, pyramid schemes made up the lion’s share of ill-begotten gains, with about $7.8 billion in value disappearing overnight once they were no longer able to recruit new gullible marks.
The top 10 pyramid schemes accounted for 54% of the total take. The largest ones to collapse in 2022 were Forsage and the Trade Coin Club, with Bitconnect following close behind them.
About 40% of pyramid schemes in 2022 took place on the TRON network, mostly involving USDT. The report also touches on the sums involved in illicit markets, which, although very illegal, only generated about $1.5 billion in revenue for bad actors, far less than the amount generated by outright fraud.
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