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.


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FACTOID

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.