Cryptocurrency theft hits nearly $1 billion in first nine months

Digital currencies stolen from exchanges in 2017 totaled just $266 million, according to a previous report from CipherTrace. (Reuters)
Updated 10 October 2018
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Cryptocurrency theft hits nearly $1 billion in first nine months

  • Digital currencies stolen from exchanges in 2017 totaled just $266 million

NEW YORK: Theft of cryptocurrencies through hacking of exchanges and trading platforms soared to $927 million in the first nine months of the year, up nearly 250 percent from the level seen in 2017, according to a report from US-based cybersecurity firm CipherTrace released on Wednesday.
The report, which looks at criminal activity and money laundering in the digital currency market, also showed a steadily growing number of smaller thefts in the $20-60 million range, totaling $173 million in the third quarter.
Digital currencies stolen from exchanges in 2017 totaled just $266 million, according to a previous report from CipherTrace.
Bitcoin’s popularity and the emergence of more than 1,600 other digital coins or tokens have drawn more hackers into the cryptocurrency space, expanding opportunities for crime and fraud.
“The regulators are still a couple of years behind because there are only a few countries that have really applied strong anti-money laundering laws,” Dave Jevans, chief executive officer of CipherTrace, told Reuters in an interview.
Jevans is also the chairman of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a global organization that aims to help solve cybercrime.
He said there are likely 50 percent more criminal transactions than those that were traced for this report. For instance, CipherTrace is aware of more than $60 million in cryptocurrency that was stolen but not reported.
The data also showed that the world’s top cryptocurrency exchanges from countries with weak anti-money laundering regulations have been used to launder $2.5 billion worth of bitcoins since 2009. The top 20 virtual currency exchanges in terms of volume were analyzed for the report.
The CipherTrace report declined to name those exchanges.
These money-laundered funds represent transactions that CipherTrace was able to directly monitor and designate as criminal or highly suspect.
In estimating the $2.5 billion, CipherTrace looked at about 350 million transactions from the 20 exchanges and found 100 million of those with counterparties. From there, the firm was able to cross-check the 100 million transactions with its own data on criminal activity.
At the same time, these exchanges have also been used to purchase 236,979 bitcoins worth of criminal services, equivalent to approximately $1.5 billion at current prices, the report showed.
“All exchanges get these money-laundered funds. You really can’t stop them,” said Jevans.
“And here’s the reason why. We learn about the criminal stuff often times after it actually happened. So, there’s no way to know in real time. You can know 80-90 percent of the time, but it’s impossible to know 100 percent,” he added.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.