Cryptocurrency thefts globally are expected to reach over $1 billion this year, about four times the recorded thefts in 2017, according to a report from CipherTrace, a firm that specializes in ensuring legal compliance for blockchain transactions.
From the first three quarters of 2018, already $927 million worth of cryptocurrencies has been documented as stolen, according to the company.
Included in the listed amounts were high-profile hacks of cryptocurrency exchanges such as $530 million worth of tokens stolen from Japanese exchange Coincheck, and $195 million taken from Italian exchange BitGrail.
“Additionally, CipherTrace is aware of over $60 million in cryptocurrency that was stolen but not reported publicly,” the report read.
The company also pointed out that the figure for the first three quarters of 2018 was already 3.5 times larger than all of the previous year, where $266 million was reported stolen globally.
CipherTrace, which deals with blockchain forensics and enforcement solutions, stressed that stricter regulations in the cryptocurrency trade were in demand all over the world. “Establishing their countries’ reputations as ‘safe’ digital markets helps to attract trustworthy cryptocurrency exchanges and digital asset businesses,” according to the company.
It cited the European Commission’s fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive last July, and policies and monitoring of the Financial Action Task Force, as part of current regulatory initiatives.
The report also noted how existing anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations for the cryptocurrency trade have been moving the use of cryptocurrencies for criminal activity to less regulated markets. The result is that 97% of BTC payments for criminal activity ended up in unregulated exchanges or in exchanges of countries with weak AML legislation.
According to CipherTrace, 4.7% of total BTC received in countries with weak regulations comes from criminal activity, which it defined as directly coming from sources such as dark market sites, extortion, malware, money laundering sites, ransomware, and terrorist financing.
The data analyzed came from 45 million transactions in the top 20 cryptocurrency exchanges, up to last September 29. Using U.S. Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs data, CipherTrace determined that 79 of 212 “have weak AML regimes” due to lack of government controls to regulate drug dealing and money laundering, to enforce KYC regulations, report large and suspicious transactions, and maintain records over time.
The data showed that 95% of BTC paid from exchanges to criminals, worth $1.5 billion at present prices, was sent from unregulated exchanges.
CipherTrace added that “the unregulated exchange is growing at 300%, with risky transactions and criminal transactions growing fastest.”