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Just two hacker groups may have stolen $1 billion in cryptocurrency

January 28, 2019

Just two teams of sophisticated cybercriminals appear to have been behind $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency thefts from online exchanges in recent years.

Alpha and Beta: Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis spent around three months tracking funds that had been stolen in known hacks. It was able to link much of that money to two groups, which it dubbed Alpha and Beta. If the group’s analysis is correct, then the two groups would account for 60% of all publicly reported crypto-heists.

The researchers suspect that Alpha is “a giant, tightly controlled organization at least partly driven by non-monetary goals.” Beta, on the other hand, “seems to be a less organized and smaller organization absolutely focused on the money.” 

Crypto laundering: Chainalysis told the Wall Street Journal that both Alpha and Beta used extensive networks of cryptocurrency wallets to cover their tracks, transferring the stolen funds an average of 5,000 times before cashing out. Whereas Alpha tends to start the elaborate process immediately, Beta is known to sit on the money until the publicity around the hack fades.

Undermining trust: The cryptocurrency industry, and especially the exchange scene, has been under increasing scrutiny from regulators who say it can’t yet be trusted to secure customer funds. Revelations like this support that conclusion.

(Also see “Criminals thought Bitcoin was the perfect hiding place, but they thought wrong.”)

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