Recent data from Chainalysis, a blockchain data platform, suggest that crypto revenue extorted by ransomware attackers declined significantly last year.
Figures reveal that the crypto revenue from ransomware declined by almost 40.3%, coming down to $456.8 million from $765.6 million in the past year. The Chainalysis report highlighted that the trend in reduced ransomware payments was clear, but the actual totals are likely higher as many crypto addresses controlled by attackers are yet to be identified on blockchain networks and then would be incorporated into the existing figures.
Notably, the decline in revenue does not imply fewer attempted attacks in the past year. As per Fortinet, a cybersecurity firm, more than 10,000 unique ransomware strains were nearly double the count from the prior six months in the first half of the year.
The on-chain data also confirmed that the number of active types of ransomware had increased dramatically in recent years. However, the average lifespan of each type dropped by more than half to 70 days in 2022 as attackers tried to obfuscate their activity by utilizing various strains.
While numerous strains remain active, the research firm said that the number of individuals in the ransomware ecosystem is probably small. This is because the affiliates execute the attacks over multiple strains by creating the illusion of many different attackers despite re-using the same wallet addresses.
Hence, Chainalysis concluded that the drop in payments could be most likely due to more victims refusing to pay the ransomware attackers.
In the context of money laundering, Chainalysis said that most of the ransomware attackers were increasingly sending victims’ funds to mainstream, centralized crypto exchanges. The share of ransomware funds going to such platforms increased 48.3% in the past year compared to 39.3% in 2021.
In the meanwhile, those sent to high-risk exchanges dropped to 6.7% from 10.9%. Money laundering of ransomware funds through illicit services such as darknet markets also declined, while crypto mixers, including Tornado Cash, proved more popular, increasing to 15% from 11.6%.
Tornado Cash is a crypto mixer that is highly problematic. The US Treasury has been strictly against Tornado Cash and called it a ban. However, lawmakers in the nation have continued to advocate for it citing privacy concerns.