In brief

  • For now, Chainalysis estimates $602 million in ransomware payments from 2021—less than for 2020.
  • But it expects the final number to rise substantially.

Chainalysis—a blockchain data firm—has found that value stolen through crypto ransomware attacks likely rose from 2020 to 2021—it just hasn’t accounted for it all yet. 

According to a preview of the company’s 2022 Crypto Crime Report, it’s identified $602 million in ransomware payouts for 2021, compared to $692 million for 2020. However, it believes the 2021 figure to be an “underestimate” given that it has revised its initial 2020 estimate upward by nearly 50%.

“Anecdotal evidence, plus the fact that ransomware revenue in the first half of 2021 exceeded that of the first half of 2020, suggests to us that 2021 will eventually be revealed to have been an even bigger year for ransomware,” the report states.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to computer files until the attacker’s requests are fulfilled. Hackers often ask for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in funds—typically paid in cryptocurrency so it doesn’t have to go through traditional payment routes. There are various versions or types of ransomware, called “strains.” 

According to Chainalysis, the Russian-based group Conti was easily the biggest ransomware strain last year in terms of revenue. Using a ransomware-as-a-service model (RaaS), Conti operators extorted over $180 million from their victims. 

DarkSide was also listed. It’s the strain that perpetrated the infamous attack on the U.S….

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