Cybercriminal proceeds make up an estimated 8-10 pe rcent of total illegal profits laundered globally; amounting to an estimated $80-$200bn each year, according to a new report by Bromium.
Other key findings include:
- Virtual currencies have become the primary tool used by cybercriminals for money laundering
- Cybercriminals are moving away from Bitcoin to less recognized virtual currencies, like Monero, that provide greater anonymity
- In-game purchases and currencies are spurring a rise in gaming-related laundering; as China and South Korea become hotspots for gaming-currency laundering
- Covert data collection found that PayPal and other digital payment systems are employed by cybercriminals to launder money
- Digital payment systems laundering often involves the use of micro-laundering techniques where multiple, small payments are made so laundering limits aren’t triggered
“We invested in this research to instigate a meaningful conversation about how to disrupt the economic systems and poor security practices that enable cybercrime around the world; frankly because it’s far too easy for them,” commented Gregory Webb, CEO of Bromium.
“Today it is easy for hackers to infect machines, steal data, and hold businesses and individuals for ransom or sell stolen IP because enterprise defences are not fit for purpose. It is equally easy for them to wash that money and convert it into cash – and the rise in use of unregulated, virtual currencies is making this even easier. We need to attack the problem in a different way. Law enforcement, the cybersecurity industry and both the public and private sectors need to be vigilant about disrupting cybercrime. Protecting applications that access sensitive data is an absolute requirement. We need a whole new approach to cybersecurity or these figures will continue to increase over time.”
Many cybercriminals are using virtual currency to make property purchases which convert illegal proceeds into legitimate cash and assets. Websites such as Bitcoin Real Estate offer everything from penthouse suites and lavish mansions, to 160-acre private islands, all with the option to buy using bitcoins. Unlike cash purchases which are subject to regulation and scrutiny, properties purchased with cryptocurrency are not as closely scrutinised because cryptocurrencies aren’t regulated by any central banks or governments.
The study found that nearly 25 per centof total property sales are predicted to be in cryptocurrency in the next few years. This is concerning financial analysts who worry that allowing swifter, more covert transactions, many with criminal origins, will disrupt global property markets.