Cryptocurrency hackers and scalpers could be poised for a more successful year in 2024, and that…

Cryptocurrency hackers and scalpers could be poised for an even more successful year in 2024, potentially surpassing their 2023 achievements.

In the first quarter of 2024, hackers stole digital assets worth $542.7 million, an increase of 42% compared to the same period in 2023.

The main reason is that hackers are constantly changing their attack vectors and looking for easier targets, according to Mriganka Patnaik, co-founder and CEO of cryptocurrency risk and intelligence platform Merkle Science.

Batnick told Cointelegraph:

“While smart contract vulnerabilities remain a concern, hackers are increasingly targeting areas outside of smart contracts, such as private key leaks. These leaks, often due to phishing attacks or insecure storage practices, have led to significant losses.

Phishing attacks involve hackers aiming to steal sensitive information such as the private keys of a cryptocurrency wallet. Other types of phishing attacks, known as address poisoning scams, aim to trick investors into voluntarily sending money to a fraudulent address that appears similar to addresses they have previously interacted with .

In May, a trader lost $71 million worth of cryptocurrencies in the highest-profile phishing attack of the year. The attacker tricked the merchant into sending 99% of their funds to the attacker’s address.

But in a strange turn of events, the anonymous thief returned the $71 million to the victim more than a week later when the incident caught the attention of blockchain investigation companies and the attacker eventually been located.

about: Memecoin trader loses over $1 million after Normie exploit

Smart contracts are becoming more secure, but hackers are looking for easier targets

Vulnerabilities in smart contracts are among the infrastructures most targeted by hackers.

However, according to Merkle Science’s HackHub 2024 report, hacked funds lost to smart contract vulnerabilities fell 92% to $179 million in 2023, compared to $2.6 billion in 2022.

Private key leaks are currently the biggest concern, according to Patnick:

“While smart contract vulnerabilities remain a security issue, a significant portion of financial losses are now attributable to attack vectors outside the scope of smart contracts. The biggest security problem today is the rapid increase in losses due to private key leaks.

More than 55% of hacked digital assets were lost due to private key leaks in 2023.

Total cryptographic losses due to vulnerabilities. Source: Merkel Science

Batnick said the reason for the decline in smart contract exploits is more advanced security tools combined with hackers competing for easier targets:

“New security tools help identify vulnerabilities in smart contracts and fix them before they can be exploited. Finally, hackers may look for easier-to-exploit targets that require less technical knowledge, such as stealing private keys.

about: Tether CEO Warns of New Wave of Crypto Phishing Emails, CoinGecko May Be Affected

Rising cryptocurrency valuations attract more hackers.

Cryptocurrency prices have increased significantly since the start of the year. According to data from CoinMarketCap, the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies has increased by 54% since the start of the year.

Total crypto market cap. Source: CoinMarketCap

In addition to increasing potential rewards for scalpers, rising cryptocurrency prices are also attracting more hackers to the cryptocurrency space, according to Patnick:

“The dramatic increase in the value of crypto assets creates a tempting target for hackers, as successful exploits can allow them to receive significantly more stolen funds than in the previous year.”

More than $574 million in digital assets were lost in 30 individual cryptocurrency hacks in May 2024, representing a 666% month-over-month increase, according to an article published June 1 by PeckShield.

Cryptocurrency hack in May 2024. Source: PeckShield

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