Cryptocurrency Ransomware Attacks Surged Over 300% in 2020: Chainalysis’ Crime Report

Cryptocurrency Ransomware Attacks Surged Over 300% in 2020: Chainalysis’ Crime Report

Revenue from crypto-related crime was reduced by 53% last year. Illicit funds, scams, and proceeds of crime through crypto also dropped. However, The value of ransomware attacks tripled, generating over $350 million.

Chainalysis’ “Crypto Crime Report 2021” shows a significant decrease in cryptocurrency-related crime across 2020, revenue from these illicit activities dropping by $5 billion, or 53%, from the previous year. The total illicit activity compared to the total transactional volume also dipped to only 0.34% in 2020, or $10 billion – a sharp dip from the 2.1% ($21.4 billion) recorded in 2019.

Overall, cryptocurrency-related scams and illegal activities are falling. Only a small portion of illicit activity is left in the crypto ecosystem. The overall illicit value from crypto is falling compared to illicit funds in traditional finance, the Chainalysis report reads.

As was the case in 2019, scams made up the biggest chunk of crypto-related crime – reporting $2.7 billion, a sharp 71% drop from $9 billion the previous year. Interestingly, the number of individual scams made to scam wallets rose by 48% across 2020 to 7.3 million individual scams. The sharp drop in value in 2020 mainly arises from the fact that no scam is close enough to the magnanimous PlusToken Ponzi scam in 2019.

Across 2020, the total crime value from scams and other illicit acts raised nearly $10 billion, dropping from $20 billion in revenue collected by bad actors in 2019.

Despite the celebrations, the value from ransomware attacks tripled in the past year, representing 7% of all the illicit crypto-based transactions. At $350 million in value across 2020, crypto-ransomware attacks grew over 311% in a year – the largest growth amongst the report’s illicit categories. The spike is attributed to the global Covid-19 pandemic, which prompted the “work from home” culture, presenting new vulnerable opportunities.

Darknet markets and stolen funds witness a less dramatic increase than ransomware – a 29% increase and a 4% increase from 2019’s values, respectively.

Earlier in the year, Chainalysis reported that the total number of cryptocurrency crimes had fallen over 83% in 2020, as regulation and exchange compliance came alive during the year.

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Author: Lujan Odera

UNI Enjoying A Breakout Year; Uniswap Protocol Shares 2021 Roadmap

2020 was an exciting year for the entire cryptocurrency market as we set the stage for a bullish 2021.

The decentralized finance (DeFi) market also had a wild year as the total value locked (TVL) in the sector grew 20 fold to surpass $14 billion.

In the DeFi space, DEX Uniswap Protocol made waves by becoming the first project to exceed $3 billion in TVL. For now, it has fallen to $1.7 billion.

UNI token is also enjoying an uptrend, trading at $5 following a 43% rally over the past week. Currently, UNI is the 22nd largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of $1.34 billion.

Following the “breakout year,” Uniswap is now working on V3 to improve automated market-making (AMM). In its 2021 roadmap, the team shared that they will be exploring scaling solutions for faster and cheaper transactions, with an emphasis on governance.

“V3’s design is driven by a desire to drastically improve the AMM experience for both swappers and LPs, increasing capital efficiency and flexibility while introducing superior execution,” noted the team.

The team also shared a review of 2020, a year in which the Uniswap V2 was launched bringing in support for arbitrary ERC20/ERC20 pairs and flash swaps that has generated $4.8 bln in volume since then, producing $14.4 mln in LP fees.

In the entire last year, the decentralized exchange recorded $58 bln in volume, up 15,000% from 2019’s $390 mln. Uniswap even passed Coinbase on weekly volume albeit briefly.

Over 68,000 unique addresses are currently providing $2bn in liquidity across 27,000 unique trading pairs on the platform.

Just last month, the Uniswap team launched Sybil that uses third-party authentication platforms to make delegating of governance UNI tokens easy.

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Author: AnTy

USDC Circulating Supply Increases by 3.14B; Stablecoin ‘Way Ahead of the Pack’ in Regulatory Compliance

USDC Circulating Supply Increases by 3.14B in 2020; CEO Says Stablecoin Is ‘Way Ahead of the Pack’ in Regulatory Compliance

USDC’s supply has surged 687% in less than ten months. Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire says the latest regulations “pave the way for stablecoins to become a major part of the payments and settlement infrastructure of the financial system.”

Stablecoin USD Coin, created by Center Consortium, a collaboration of Coinbase and Circle has surpassed 3.6 billion in circulation.

“USDC crossed 3.5B in circulation, newly 500m new in circulation in past couple of weeks,” tweeted Jeremy Allaire, co-founder, and CEO of Circle.

A few hours later the same day, Allaire took to Twitter again to state that the coins in circulation had crossed $3.6 billion.

In mid-March, the market cap of USDC was just around $457 million, representing an increase of 687% in less than ten months.

2020 has been a year of stablecoins as the combined supply of these coins surpassed 20 billion recently.

Another interesting metric is the on-chain volumes of these stablecoins which have crossed the $1 trillion mark, this year, for the first time ever, analyzed The Block. Last year, the volume was a mere $248 billion.

The dominant stablecoin in the market, Tether (USDT) remains the king here as well by accounting for 76% of all the stablecoin on-chain volume followed by USDC at 15% and then DAI at just 7% share of the market.

As for the blockchain, Ethereum is the obvious leader with 83.5% of stablecoin on-chain volume share followed by Tron and Omni at 14.5% and 2.1% respectively.

Regulators onto Stablecoins

This increased popularity and usage of fiat-backed cryptos have brought regulatory scrutiny on the stablecoins.

Just this week, President Trump’s Working Group on Financial Markets published a statement where it says stablecoins must meet the same regulatory standards as other financial systems. It requires the issuers to obtain and verify the information of the parties involved in the transaction of stablecoins across unhosted wallets.

“Nearly everything that is being proposed is highly aligned with how Centre operates and USDC is issued today. Broadly, this is a very significant development in terms of acknowledging USDC as emerging significant payment infrastructure in the US,” commented Allaire on these new proposed rules.

He further went on to say that all the regulators are asking for are already the “hallmarks” of the company and they are “way ahead of the pack.”

These regulations “pave the way for stablecoins to become a major part of the payments and settlement infrastructure of the financial system,” said Allaire.

However, the rules on transaction reporting for unhosted wallets, which cross-references the midnight rule-making by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, “will be vigorously fought.”

“We are looking forward to picking this conversation up with the Biden Administration, and the many many leaders and civil servants across the US Treasury, SEC, CFTC and others as we usher in the next major phase of the global financial system.”

Jeremy Allaire Co-founder and CEO of Circle

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Author: AnTy

Bitcoin’s Rising Popularity Not an ‘Existential Threat’ to Gold’s Last Resort Status

Amidst the wild bull rally of 2020, several mainstream firms have commented on Bitcoin’s ability to outdo gold in the long term. In its recent report, JPMorgan also said that if Bitcoin continues to see the institutional adoption it is seeing, which has just “begun,” gold can “suffer” over the coming years.

However, according to Goldman Sachs Group, Bitcoin and gold can coexist despite the largest digital currency pinching some demand from the traditional safe haven asset. The bank said in a note,

“Gold’s recent underperformance versus real rates and the dollar has left some investors concerned that Bitcoin is replacing gold as the inflation hedge of choice.”

While the banking giant noted that there’d been some substitution, “we do not see Bitcoin’s rising popularity as an existential threat to gold’s status as the currency of last resort,” it added.

As we reported, Bitcoin flows have been increasing massively thanks to the cryptocurrency’s more than 210% rally this year. Meanwhile, the world’s largest gold ETF recorded the most significant outflow last month has not recorded any inflows. Goldman said,

“We do not see evidence that Bitcoin’s rally is cannibalizing gold’s bull market and believe the two can coexist.”

Dan Tapiero, co-founder-10T Holdings, a supporter of both Bitcoin and gold, agrees with Goldman Sachs and that there are not enough stores of value available for investors. He said,

“Non-financial market people do not understand that we have an overall SHORTAGE of stores of value available in the markets.”

“GOLD not losing its SOV premium any time soon, unlikely in my LIFETIME.”

According to Goldman, wealthy and institutional investors avoid digital assets due to “transparency issues,” and “speculative retail investment causes Bitcoin to act as an excessively risky asset.”

According to Jeff Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs, “Bitcoin is the retail inflation hedge.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Currie said it is the copper chart that looks “similar” to Bitcoin, and what they have in common is they both are “risk-on growth proxies.”

He further added that gold remains a “defensive asset” and “there’s really no evidence” that Bitcoin hasn’t stolen demand from the precious metal.

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Author: AnTy

SNX to Surge Past $2,000 & Reach 3x Ethereum’s Current Market Cap: Report

DeFi bluechip Synthetix (SNX) is one of the biggest gainers of 2020, with more than 863% YTD.

With a $707 million market cap, SNX is the 40th largest cryptocurrency trading at $6.32.

However, according to the latest report, the DeFi token has a potential to go 364x from here that would take the digital asset’s market cap to a whopping $242 billion, more than 3x of the second-largest cryptocurrency Ethereum’s current market cap at $73 billion.

These lofty predictions come from the “confidential” report by Teeka Tiwari’s Palm Beach Research Group, claims an unconfirmed report.

The report, which calls these numbers “conservative,” compares Synthetix with Tesla, Amazon, and General Motors, stating “disruptive tech projects tend to be worth more through their innovations and cutting of overhead costs.”

The decentralized platform on the Ethereum network trades everything from cryptocurrencies, commodities, forex, indexes and will soon add stocks to its list, too, by creating synthetic assets on the blockchain.

As per the report, since the beginning of 2020, Synthetix has grown its user base nearly 4x, and the assets held on its platform have also increased 4.4x to over $750 million. Since February, the platform has also generated over $1 billion in trading volume but “has massive potential to eat more market share from traditional exchanges.”

“Conservatively, we think Synthetic could come to command a premium five times higher than traditional exchanges,” further reads the report. This is because the decentralized protocol eliminates middlemen and expensive overhead costs needed to run an exchange.

With an estimated $130 trillion trading in equities every year alone, even capturing a tiny portion of the market would see the volume on the platform, trading fee, profits, price, and the market cap of the digital asset ballooning, argues the report.

With the bull market in focus, everyone is back to making wilder predictions. However, given that Synthetix is one of the hottest DeFi projects in the market, it can achieve a higher value, but it’s to be seen just how high they will go.

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Author: AnTy

Chinese State Media: BTC Bull Market Can Cause Long-Term Downward Pressure on Gold

In 2020, China has repeatedly been pointing out the bull run the largest digital asset is enjoying, and yet again, before the year is over, it went at it again, but this time, it took one step further.

Over the weekend, CCTV, China’s state media’s Bitcoin coverage, involved its bull market, causing downward pressure on the precious metal.

Bitcoin getting airtime on the state media is significant in itself, but it is more so when compared with the traditional safe-haven asset, which has high demand in the country.

Interestingly, when it comes to global gold demand that includes jewelry, technology, bars, coins, and ETF, China, along with India, accounts for the highest, 24% each.

“It’s truly incredible if you think about it. A decade ago, we started printing a digital ledger, which today is still less than 1 terabyte that’s sucking the life out of an element on the fucking periodic table that has existed since the dawn of universe…” noted analyst Qiao Wang.

The CCTV report quoted JPMorgan’s report predicting a major shift in crypto and gold markets as digital assets become increasingly popular as an investment asset class.

“The adoption of bitcoin by institutional investors has only begun, while for gold, its adoption by institutional investors is very advanced,” wrote JPMorgan strategists earlier this month while noting that money poured into the Bitcoin fund since October year while moving out of gold.

According to the strategists, the trend that started this year is only going to continue in the long run as more institutional investors jump on the Bitcoin bandwagon.

“If this medium to longer-term thesis proves right, the price of gold would suffer from a structural flow headwind over the coming years,” wrote JPMorgan’s strategists at the time.

In its latest report, the banking giant said Bitcoin adoption by institutional investors achieved another milestone with MassMutual’s $100 million BTC purchase that could see an additional $600 billion in Bitcoin demand.

Back in Sept., CCTV also reported that cryptocurrency is the best-performing asset of the year has surpassed other investment classes like gold and US stocks.

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Author: AnTy

Gold Investor Forecasts Continued Bullish Rally for Bitcoin and Ether in 2021

While 2020 has already proven to be a stellar year for several large-cap cryptos, some analysts are already predicting what 2021 might look like.

Major gold bug Frank Holmes has given his prediction on Bitcoin and Ether. He believes both digital assets could do much better in the new year as they capitalize on 2020’s performance.

Increased Investor Interest and a DeFi Boom

Holmes is the chief executive of U.S. Global Advisors, a Texas-based asset management firm. Speaking with Kitco News, Holmes explained that he expects digital assets to notch improved performances in 2021 along with gold. He argued that the leading cryptocurrencies had seen growth in their underlying value drivers, leading to higher adoption and price gains.

Speaking on Bitcoin, Holmes explained that the asset is seeing greater adoption. He noted the increase in the number of new wallets, maintaining what seems to be a three-year trend. However, while many have pointed to an influx of institutional investment as to why Bitcoin is surging, the gold bug attributes the rally to the halving event.

As he pointed out, a comparable halving event in the gold market could see the asset rise to $10,000 an ounce. He added that the halving had affected the supply of the asset. Joined by the quick adoption by institutions (which have a penchant for absorbing Bitcoin in large numbers), Bitcoin’s demand has grown significantly, leading to a jump in value.

Moving to Ether, Holmes highlighted that the asset had enjoyed most of its 2020 rally from the decentralized finance (DeFi) boom. DeFi Pulse shows that the total value locked in DeFi projects is at an all-time high of $14 billion. Since much of DeFi activity is done on the Ethereum blockchain, the network is seeing new usage. That will undoubtedly increase Ether’s value in the future.

Holmes further predicted that continued growth in the DeFi market would help Ether going into 2021. The investor predicted a “two-standard deviation” to occur to the asset in the next few months on gold. Estimating the occurrence’s effects, he claimed that gold could hit $2,600 an ounce before 2021 draws to a close.

Not Drawing Comparisons

Holmes refrained from speaking on Bitcoin’s potential to displace gold as the global reserve currency that many believe could happen in the next decade.

A recent Bloomberg piece explained that several Wall Street stalwarts had begun debating Bitcoin’s potential to usurp gold as the global reserve currency. Bitcoin had gotten support from names like Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller. Several large investment firms are even considering moving large chunks of their portfolios into BTC.

Bitcoin’s market cap is still a paltry $346 billion compared to gold’s $2.6 trillion. However, continued growth in the asset’s investor base should force a considerable change.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Stablecoins Printed About $5 Billion During Bitcoin’s 80% Run-Up In Q4

After the March sell-off, Bitcoin has been slowly making its way up and it has been in Q4 of 2020 that it fully rocketed.

In early October, BTC was trading around $10,500 when it went on a tear, climbing to $19,965 on Tuesday, a level that was only seen on a few cryptocurrency exchanges during the top of the 2017 bull market.

At that time, the market cap of fiat-backed cryptos was a mere $1.5 billion which today reached nearly $25 billion, an increase of 1,560% in three years.

This growth actually started during the March sell-off which saw not only Bitcoin but the broad asset class; stocks, gold, oil, and everything else except for USD crashing due to coronavirus.

The total stablecoins market cap was under $6 billion in early March while the most popular stablecoin Tether’s (USDT) market cap was under $5 billion.

Today, Tether’s market cap is close to hitting $20 billion, a growth of more than 310% in nine months.

During Bitcoin’s euphoric rally of about 80% since October, USDT’s market cap actually increased by 25%, from $16 billion to nearly $20 billion.

While Tether has somewhat slowed down, but no doubt remains the dominant force by a wide margin, other stablecoins have started to capture a bit more of the market share.

PAX supply has increased by about 100 million since October 21st when PayPal announced that it would be supporting cryptocurrencies. Paxos, the company behind PAX, is used by PayPal as their infrastructure provider.

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Another stablecoin leading the market is USDC, which is being used as a tool of US foreign policy. On Nov. 20th, Circle announced a partnership with the government of Venezuela to distribute aid to their front-line medical workers.

While Venezuela’s currency is suffering from hyperinflation due to money printing, stablecoins offer an attractive option. As a result, USDC’s daily active addresses hit an all-time high of 43.21k, just four days after the announcement, as per Coin Metrics.

The market cap of USDC, developed by Circle and Coinbase’s consortium Centre, actually exploded in August, going from $1 billion to the current $3 billion. Binance’s stablecoin BUSD saw a jump of 270% (nearly $500 million) in the last three months.

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Author: AnTy

Post-COVID Rebuilding Period to Include Massive Crypto Crimes: Kaspersky Labs

2020 has been brutal. This year witnessed a wave of cyber attacks on companies as the lockdown forced companies and their employees to work remotely. As things settle down and countries reopen, a new report has sounded the alarm on possible attacks for post-covid.

No Rest for the Crypto Space

Top cybersecurity solutions provider Kaspersky Labs shared a report revealing that the post-COVID era could come with a significant number of cryptocurrency attacks. The report focused primarily on financial institutions, and it was compiled by Kaspersky’s cyber threat research arm Securelist.

Securelist argues that the post-COVID era would be marked by extreme poverty, with many still out of a job and transitioning between jobs as companies try to get back on their feet. With little to no income coming in, many unemployed could turn to cybercrime to maintain a “living.” Ultimately, this could lead to an increase in criminal activity related to Bitcoin.

Securelist highlighted that Bitcoin’s popularity means that it would most likely be the asset of choice for many prospective criminals. The research arm highlighted in its report,

“We might see certain economies crashing and local currencies plummeting, which would make Bitcoin theft a lot more attractive.

We should expect more fraud, targeting mostly BTC, due to this cryptocurrency being the most popular one.”

However, Securelist also pointed out that many of these hacks could focus on Monero, the most famous privacy-focused cryptocurrency. With assets like Bitcoin and Ether becoming easier to track, privacy coins would be the next gold rush.

The crypto space has been relatively silent when it comes to criminal activity. Crypto analytics firm CipherTrace pointed out in a report from earlier this month that the volume of crypto crime in the industry had declined significantly from 2019.

Per an account from Reuters, the report explained that the first ten months of 2020 saw $1.8 billion in crypto crime. This number pales in comparison to the $4.4 billion reported last year.

Increased Ransomware Crimes

The rate of cryptocurrency crimes slowed in 2020 as exchanges and custodial companies strengthen their security and internal processes. Despite this reduction, ransomware attacks demanding cryptocurrencies are gradually becoming the norm.

In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 75 percent increase in ransomware attacks on the health sector. Businesses in these sectors and other educational organizations spent over $100 million to retrieve their data from ransomware gangs.

In addition to the cost spent on attackers, U.S government agencies also coughed up over $150 million on restoring their networks, investigating security breaches, and setting up preventive measures.

As of August, McAfee Security confirmed that NetWalker, one of the top ransomware variants, had generated $25 million for its users in just four months.

To make matters worse, NetWalker was only discovered in 2019. However, the group operating it reportedly earned a ransom income of 2,795 BTC (about $25 million at the time) – between March 1 and July 27, 2020.

The report highlighted that part of the ransomware’s profitability had been due to its Ransomware-as-a-service operation. The operators have developed an affiliate revenue sharing system that allows other operators to earn funds from ransoms paid by victims.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Nouriel Roubini and Peter Schiff Can’t Stop Talking About Bitcoin Day In, Day Out

2020 has been all about people coming out of fiat’s influence and finding the importance of Bitcoin. But among these high-profile names, celebrities, legendary investors who have found love for Bitcoin do not include Nouriel Roubini and Peter Schiff.

These two people have been bashing Bitcoin for a decade now; either they like to be wrong way too much or are just holding Bitcoin secretly while keeping up with the appearances.

Like a broken record, they started calling names to the leading cryptocurrency yet again as BTC took a drop of 17% to nearly $16,300. Since October, the loss came after a new 2020 high of $19,500, a rally of more than 85%. Even now, BTC is up 135% YTD.

In his latest attempt to do… something, Peter Schiff, a gold proponent, attributed this rally to CNBC promoting Grayscale and covering Bitcoin non-stop positively, which led “greedy speculators” to jump in.

Meanwhile, Nouriel Roubini felt the need to share, yet again, that it is not a currency. A highly volatile store of value, “Bitcoin has no role in institutional or retail investors portfolios,” he said.

“In every bubble those who don’t participate always look like fools for missing out. It’s only after the bubbles pop and the air comes out that the real fools are exposed,” said Shiff in another tweet.

If only he would have just put his investment in Bitcoin, like his son, if not done already, that is, instead of seeing these declines after explosive rallies as a way to criticize bitcoin, he would have been buying the dips and accumulating wealth.

According to him, once bitcoin’s bubble deflates, “the real gold remains the best safe haven and store of value left standing.”

He didn’t share with his followers that ever since making a new all-time high above $2,000, the price of the precious metal has declined more than 13% to $1,800.

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Author: AnTy