A good number of high-profile attacks on the crypto ecosystem took place last year, targeting everything and everyone from Phantom wallets to smart contracts themselves.
A common choice of target was cross-chain bridges, which allowed hackers to make off with serious bounties, most notably in the case of Harmony.
Sharp Decrease in Attacks
However, times seem to be changing, according to a new report from cybersecurity researchers at TRMLabs.
According to the paper, the total value stolen via exploits and hacks has decreased by 70% year-over-year since Q1 2022. Although this may seem biased, considering that Q1 2022 was when the $600 million Ronin bridge attack took place, the data holds up even when the rest of 2022 is taken into account. In total, almost $3.7 billion worth of funds were stolen by bad actors last year.
In fact, less value was stolen during Q1 2023 than in any quarter of 2022. In the previous quarter of 2023, the total value stolen only added up to about $400 million across nearly 40 separate attacks – about two-thirds were from the Ronin Bridge hack alone.
Furthermore, the victims of the attacks often manage to get back part of the stolen bounty, which is already, on average, a third of what it was a year ago.
“The average hack size also took a hit in Q1 2023 – to USD 10.5 million from nearly USD 30 million in the same quarter of 2022, even as the number of incidents was similar (around 40). To date, hacking victims have recovered over half of all stolen funds in Q1 2023.”
Increased Scrutiny Prevents Losses
Although it is impossible to tell the exact reason for the decline in the scope of the attacks – which could be anything between better cybersecurity measures, sheer boredom, or a guilty conscience – the researchers at TRMLabs believe increased attention from law enforcement officials may be the main contributor here.
Even in cases where the exploit that took place did not violate hacking laws, regulators still took action for other reasons. For instance, Avraham Eisenberg’s “profitable trading strategy” has landed him in trouble with the SEC, which charged him with manipulating securities.
Illegal exploits have also declined. Ever since Tornado Cash, the most well-known instrument for laundering dirty crypto, was sanctioned by the U.S., all addresses related to the mixer have been blacklisted, making it harder for cybercriminals to cash out the proceeds of their attacks.
However, the researchers warn that this lull in attacks may be temporary and urge crypto devs to remain alert.