The amount of cryptocurrency stolen through hacked exchanges has risen by a substantial amount in the last year, according to a major new report.
The investigation, by crypto safety and intelligence tool provider CipherTrace, found that money laundering and other illegal behaviours in the crypto space was worth well over $900 million US dollars.
In the first nine months of 2018, the exact figure was around $927 million US dollars. In 2017, though, the equivalent figure was just $266 million US dollars.
Overall, this change represents a rise of nearly 250%.
The report also revealed a worrying trend about the sizes of the thefts carried out on these hacked exchanges. The number of thefts which had a value of between $20 million and $60 million US dollars, for example, is rising substantially.
In the third quarter of 2018, these thefts were responsible for around $173 million US dollars.
According to the report, the exchanges it studied were utilised by criminals to buy over 236,000 bitcoins for reasons of criminal activity.
The perceived reasons for the noted rise were varied, although those behind the report suggested that it was down in part to the arrival of many new cryptocurrency options.
And according to Dave Jevans, who is CipherTrace’s CEO, the development is also due to the fact that money laundering goes somewhat unchallenged by the law in many countries around the world.
“The regulators are still a couple of years behind because there are only a few countries that have really applied strong anti-money laundering laws,” Jevans told news agency Reuters.
The money laundering aspect of some cryptocurrency projects is one that is gaining more and more attention as time goes on.
The report found that those nations with what it called weak anti-money laundering laws saw the laundering of $2.5 billion US dollars’ worth of bitcoin between 2009 and the present day.
“All exchanges get these money-laundered funds. You really can’t stop them,” Jevans said.
Part of the problem, he believes, is an inability to know in advance when a crime is going to take place.
“And here’s the reason why. We learn about the criminal stuff often times after it actually happened. So there’s no way to know in real time. You can know 80-90 per cent of the time, but it’s impossible to know 100 percent,” he added.
The connection between the cryptocurrency world and money laundering has been noted before, too.
In fact, international organisation the Financial Action Task Force (or FATF) is planning to release a set of anti-money laundering standards for cryptocurrencies this month.
FATF, which counts 35 jurisdictions and two international organisations among its members, said last month that a set of rules would be on the way.
CipherTrace’s report focused on twenty major exchanges, although the report’s authors did not name them.
For its methodology, it looked at a figure in the region of 350 million transactions. It was then able to identify 100 million which had counterparties, and from there it could then authenticate whether these were related to crime.