- Cybercriminals were paid a record $1.1 billion in crypto ransom in 2023, Chainalysis said.
- Big targets included hospitals, schools, government agencies, and other critical infrastructure.
- There were 538 different kinds of ransomware attacks reported in 2023.
Crypto ransom payments to cyber criminals hit an all-time high of $1.1 billion in 2023, marking a significant turnaround from the decline observed in 2022.
Victims were mostly high-profile institutions and critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and government agencies. The amount paid by victims marked a 76.4% increase from 2022, when criminals were paid $567 million in crypto, according to data from Chainalysis released Wednesday.
“A major thing we’re seeing is the astronomical growth in the number of threat actors carrying out ransomware attacks,” Allan Liska, Threat Intelligence Analyst at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said in the note.
Chainalysis attributed the surge of new players to the potential for high profits and lower barriers to entry, emphasizing that their figures represent conservative estimates, and the amount of ransomware attacks is expected to rise as new targets are identified down the road.
The record ransom payments in 2023 are a big increase from the prior year when crypto ransomware attacks declined due to factors including cybercriminals’ shifting focus from financial gain to political motivations amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Additionally, the FBI’s successful infiltration efforts played a role in thwarting some crimes, Chainalysis said.
There were 538 ransomware variants reported in 2023, Recorded Futures said, which points to the rise of new groups. Some big players also carried out fewer attacks but garnered larger payments per attack, the report said.
The rise of “ransomware as a service” has also led to an increase in attacks. Using the model, outsiders can use a ransomware program and then pay its creator a cut of the proceeds from the hack. These methods require much less technical know-how on the part of criminals in order to carry out, Chainalysis said.
Chainalysis reported previously that North Korean-linked hacks of cryptocurrency platforms reached a record high in 2023, though the year also saw a 41% decrease in the amount of crypto stolen by these groups.