Cryptocurrency are rarely used to launder funds stolen from banks and other financial institutions, while traditional methods based on fiat currencies are still popular among cybercriminal organizations.
According to a report published by SWIFT, the organization behind the SWIFT international bank messaging system that nearly all banks throughout the world use, traditional methods like the use of money mules, front companies, cash businesses, and investments into other forms of crime are still widely popular to launder funds, while cryptocurrency usage isn’t.
The report reads:
Identified cases of laundering through cryptocurrencies remain relatively small compared to the volumes of cash laundered through traditional methods.
According to SWIFT, incidents where hackers laundered funds via cryptocurrencies have been rare and far between. An example the organization listed include a gang who performed an ATM cashout attack, and converted stolen cash into cryptocurrency.
Another example referred to an Eastern European gang who used stolen funds to set up a bitcoin mining farm. Per the report, when the gang was arrested authorities recovered 15,000 BTC and found two sports cars and jewelry worth over $500,000 at the house of the gang’s leader.
The report also mentions the infamous Lazarus Group, a group of hackers believed to be tied to the North Korean government that has targeted numerous cryptocurrency exchanges. The group is believed to have stolen over $570 million worth of cryptocurrency.
SWIFT added that in “some cases” hackers used stolen bank funds to buy and load prepaid cryptocurrency cards. The report details several financial platforms in Europe and the UK have been used to load these cards.
While the organization points out cryptocurrency cases are edge cases when compared to the number of incidents and the volume of funds laundered with fiat currencies, it believes cryptocurrency money laundering will rise in the future.
This as the number of altcoins in the crypto space keeps rising, and some focus on providing full transaction anonymity. The use of services and tumblers, which obscure transaction data by mixing stolen funds with legitimate ones in a series of transactions.
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