SIM Swappers Indicted for Stealing $2.4 Million in Cryptoassets

US courts have reportedly charged six individuals for their alleged involvement in a “SIM swapping” attack, through which they stole approximately $2.4 million in cryptoassets from several investors. According to PCMag, the six offenders are affiliated with a group of hackers known as “The Community,” which had allegedly hacked into multiple cryptocurrency wallets and stolen the funds stored in them.

Launching Attacks Through Widely-Used SIM Swapping Technique

As noted in the incident report, the criminals used a SIM swapping technique to hack into users’ cell phones and also to gain access to their digital asset wallets. Taking advantage of the fact most users’ mobile phone numbers are linked to their online bank accounts and email, the hackers were reportedly able retrieve private passwords and key phrases belonging to the victims.

As detailed by federal authorities assigned to the investigation, the hackers managed to orchestrate the large-scale financial crime by impersonating the actual owners of the cell phone numbers. They tricked the cell phone service providers into believing they were the real owners and convinced them to transfer the victims’ numbers to other mobile phones (which belonged to the hackers).

In addition to posing as the owners of the mobile phone numbers, the hackers had bribed staff working at the cell phone companies.

Six Defendants Indicted By US Prosecutors

The six defendants were indicted on Thursday (May 10, 2019) for their involvement in the multi-million dollar crypto crime. US prosecutors also unsealed a formal complaint against three customer support representatives, who had previously been working at various cell phone service provider companies. The former customer support specialists have been charged for assisting hackers in carrying out the SIM-swapping attacks.

Commenting on the incident, US Attorney Matthew Schneider, remarked:

Mobile phones today are not only a means of communication but also a means of identification. This case should serve as a reminder to all of us to protect our personal and financial information from those who seek to steal it.

Notably, US prosecutors are now charging the six defendants with orchestrating seven different attacks, during the time period from December 2017 to May 2018. In one incident, the suspects allegedly stole $1.9 million in cryptocurrency from a single investor.

In early February 2019, a SIM swap hacker was sentenced to 10 years in prison as he had reportedly stolen $5 million in cryptoassets from unsuspecting investors. According to the incident report, the offender was a 20-year-old college student named Joel Ortiz, who had managed to steal the large amount of cryptocurrency from around 40 victims with the “help of unnamed accomplices.”

Bitcoin Hashrate Reaches All-Time High, As BTC Halving Event Approaches

Bitcoin’s ( BTC ) hashrate recently reached an all-time high according to data from Blockchain.com, a leading London-based block explorer service.

Bitcoin network’s hashrate , which represents the amount of computing resources being dedicated towards providing security for the cryptocurrency’s blockchain (among other uses), has been climbing steadily in the past few months.

Higher Hashrate Suggests Increased Interest in Mining Bitcoin

Available data from June 19, 2019 shows that Bitcoin ’s hashrate currently stands at around 65.19 trillion hashes per second (TH/s). Notably, the BTC blockchain’s hashing power began to increase significantly as the pseudonymous cryptocurrency’s price crossed the $9,000 and then $10,000 mark.

In addition to improving the security of the Bitcoin blockchain, a higher hashrate indicates that the overall interest in mining BTC has surged - presumably due to the recovery made by the bitcoin price and also that of other major cryptoassets.

Hashrate May Be Used to “Hack Humans to Create Gold 2.0”

Commenting on the rising hashrate, Wall Street veteran and Bitcoin bull Max Keiser remarked via Twitter that an increase in hash power results in a considerable price increase for Bitcoin in most cases. Keiser believes that even some of bitcoin’s biggest supporters fail to understand the importance of hashrate.

The experienced financial analyst remarked:

[Hashrate can be thought of as] Satoshi’s ability to hack humans to create Gold 2.0.

Previous BTC Hashrate All-Time High of 60 TH/s Set in September 2018

Bitcoin’s recently recorded hashrate of over 65 TH/s is considerably greater than the previous all-time high of about 60 TH/s - which was achieved in September 2018. After reaching a new high last year, bitcoin’s hashrate had been declining steadily - as the cryptocurrency’s price also continued to plummet.

But after bitcoin’s value reached a low of around $3,150 in December 2018, the leading cryptocurrency’s price and also that of other major cryptoassets began to recover in 2019. Other key metrics used to assess the performance of the Bitcoin network have also shown marked improvement.

Less Than 16% of 21 Million Bitcoins Left to Be Mined

According to BitcoinBlockHalf data, there are only 3,220,350 bitcoins left to be mined as the Bitcoin protocol has algorithmically capped the maximum supply of BTC at 21 million.

At present, there should be 17,779,650 bitcoins in circulation but analysts have estimated that nearly 4 million BTC has been lost due to account mismanagement - including users forgetting their private passwords to their crypto wallets .

Moreover, the Bitcoin halving is approaching (on track to take place on May 21, 2020), a critical event which reduces the number of bitcoins that can be digitally printed (from mining) by 50%. Several crypto researchers have noted that this is one of the most significant events in bitcoin’s relatively short history as the reduction in the BTC supply has had a notable impact on the crypto’s price.