Bitcoin Traders Need a Wallet – And a Lock on the Door
As a global statistic, violent robberies of bitcoin– and other altcoin users and executives has risen more than 100 percent in 2018. An unfortunate upshot of the industry, criminals know that if they get away with the initial intimidation and robbery, it’s impossible to retrieve digital funds after they’ve been paid over. This has created a new dimension to global crime, where crooks target individuals who are prominent within the digital currency universe, in order to violently and inconveniently relieve them of their coins.
On July 6, 2018, an anonymous trader who manages a small digital currency exchange linked to Localbitcoins, was subjected to an armed robbery at the home they used for trading. Two men invaded the house, apparently after staking it out for some time, demanding the trader pay over bitcoin and cash in his possession. The owner of the Massachusetts house, Austin Nedved, managed to flee the house and alert police at the time of the attack.
In this case, state police arrested the two shortly after, and it appears that they knew about the digital exchange and typical movements in the house.
Since Pavel Nyashin, It’s Only Gotten Worse
Pavel Nyashin made world headlines in 2018 when the 23-year old Russian was attacked in his home, being forced to transfer some $425,000 in BTC to his attackers. The criminals also trashed Nyashin’s apartment and stole his computers and other tech. Although he was accused at the time of blowing too big a trumpet about his bitcoin holdings, the fact remains that criminals have cottoned onto the fact that if they can escape arrest at the time of the attack, stolen crypto is a pleasure to own.
Nyashin has since died and, although there have been rumors of suicide as the cause of death, it is widely believed he was “bumped off” for pursuing a criminal case in the matter. The targeting and intel-gathering that criminals practice is demonstrable from current statistics. Too many leading or otherwise vocal cryptosphere figures have succumbed to attack for it to be low-key or random selection. Digital exchange executives are also at high risk of being targets of kidnapping for ransom or extortion demands.
Github bitcoin developer Jameson Lopp has listed more than 28 instances of violent attack or extortion perpetrated against digital currency traders and executives since 2015. The list begins with the February 20, 2015 violent attack on New York bitcoin trader Dwayne Richards. He was robbed and stabbed by two men who were allegedly after his bitcoin funds.
South through Florida and north to Toronto, the reports continue, stretching to South America, Europe and Southeast Asia. In all incidents, robbers appear completely at home with crypto protocols. They often simply trade on pointing a gun at someone and forcing them to transfer digital currency from their wallet, after having accosted them in the street.
Possibly the most worrying aspect of this kind of crime is the advent of abduction for ransom. In Brazil, on February 26, 2107, the wife of the founder of Brazilian virtual exchange CoinBR was abducted and held for ransom. During the several days of her ordeal, the criminals demanded some $29 million in BTC. Similarly, a New York bitcoin trader was held at gunpoint and forced to divulge his private keys, after which the attackers stole $1.8 million in ETH. The list goes on.
Red Flags For Crypto Enthusiasts
Security professionals point to the standard vigilance needed to address any increase in crypto-related attack figures. Although anyone can succumb to a concerted armed attack, they insist that the first line of defence rests with users themselves. New colleagues or friends should be vetted for their crypto interests, as there is a case on record of a new employee befriending a coworker only to access the address of a digital currency exchange executive. Users should be vigilant about being followed on foot or in a vehicle, especially shortly after transacting with digital currencies.
Users who notice others performing frequent insignificant transactions on exchanges – or simply hanging around not trading – or users who are asked for borderline personal details, should be on high alert. Employees requesting unauthorized data or accessing systems where they have no business are also worth investigating. Experts also advise that for any cryptocurrency user, social exchanges that take place in venues with public Wi-Fi are also considered a no-go.