Science

More Americans are buying and spending crypto-currency, leading to a big spike in crypto-crime.

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Do you have your money in crypto?  Are you ready to protect that digital money? Experts say now might be a

time to add an extra layer of security, with the Feds reporting a big uptick in crypto-crime over the past 12 months.  

It’s been a turbulent year for crypocurrency, with prices fluctuating wildly and crypto-crime on the rise. In 2021, thieves stole about 11 billion dollars worth of bitcoin and other online currencies – five times as much as in 2020. And criminals are increasingly targeting both large companies and infrastructure.  For example, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack resulted in a multi-million dollar payout. “Ransomware is a huge issue and last year we saw some massive demands. We’ve seen, you know, an escalation of demands, and that’s the extortion part of it,” according to cybersecurity veteran Tony Anscombe, the chief cyber threat officer at digital security firm ESET.  

And individual scams are also on the rise: an estimated 34 million Americans own cryptocurrency, and its payment value is expected to spike about 70 percent this year alone, prompting officials to urge users to watch out for scammers, ignore unsolicited emails and messages, and if you own a *lot* of crypto, get yourself a vault – or “cold storage” as it’s called in the cyber world. “Holding it offline, so that the key to that investment, in effect you’re putting it in your safe at home,” according to Anscombe.   

Ultimately, cryptocurrency isn’t going away, and neither will crypto-crime.  Experts predict a big uptick in regulations as lawmakers work to bring crypto out of the shadows. And last Tuesday, the Justice Department released a new report calling on the U.S. to share more information about crimes related to cryptocurrency.  Anscombe says that’s the benefit and curse of cryprocrurrency, noting “It’s anonymized to the person.  And unfortunately because of that anonymization, it’s the currency of choice for cyber criminals.”
 

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