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Hackers shift to Bitcoin mixers amid regulatory crackdown on Tornado Cash

Bitcoin

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TL;DR

  • Hackers use Bitcoin mixers to hide stolen money amid the Tornado Cash crackdown.
  • Bitcoin mixers spread funds across wallets for anonymity, unlike Tornado Cash.
  • Combat crypto crime with tracing, info sharing, and understanding criminals’ tactics.

In a bid to avoid the tightening grip of regulatory authorities, malicious actors in the world of cryptocurrency are adapting their tactics. Recent findings from blockchain security firm CertiK reveal a significant shift in the methods employed by hackers to launder stolen funds. 

In 2023, more than $300 million in stolen proceeds from 50 of the largest exploits have made their way into Bitcoin, as cybercriminals seek alternative routes to move their ill-gotten gains following increased scrutiny of the once-prominent Tornado Cash mixer.

Bitcoin mixers gain prominence

CertiK’s analysis sheds light on the evolving landscape of cryptocurrency laundering, with Bitcoin mixers emerging as a preferred choice for hackers. This shift has occurred in response to regulatory sanctions levied against Tornado Cash, a widely-used mixing service for anonymizing cryptocurrency transactions. 

The United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Tornado Cash in 2022, citing over $7 billion in laundered crypto assets since 2019.

The role of crypto mixers

Crypto mixers, or tumblers, are essential tools that enhance the privacy of cryptocurrency transactions. These protocols blend potentially traceable funds with a large pool of other funds, effectively anonymizing transfers between wallet addresses. While they serve legitimate privacy-conscious users, malicious actors have found ways to exploit these tools.

CertiK’s quick response team head, Joe Green, emphasized the dual nature of Bitcoin’s decentralization and privacy features, stating,

“The Bitcoin ecosystem hosts a variety of privacy mixers that serve both privacy-conscious users and those with nefarious intentions.”

Green acknowledged that this challenge is intrinsic to decentralized systems.

Bitcoin mixers vs. Tornado Cash

Bitcoin mixers, such as Sinbad (which was also sanctioned and shut down by U.S. authorities), have gained prominence in 2023 as an alternative to Tornado Cash. Unlike Tornado Cash, which primarily obfuscates the link between the sender and receiver, Bitcoin mixers employ a different approach. 

They allow users to deposit Bitcoin and distribute it across multiple wallets in varying percentages, making it significantly more difficult to trace the flow of funds.

While Tornado Cash remains the “go-to” mixer for smaller-scale cybercrimes, CertiK’s analysis highlights a trend among high-value incidents (involving $50 million or more) shifting toward Bitcoin-based laundering solutions. This shift is indicative of the evolving challenges facing the cryptocurrency space.

As crypto laundering tactics continue to evolve, there is an urgent need for dynamic countermeasures to combat blockchain-based financial crime effectively. 

Green stressed the importance of comprehensive tracing of “dirty” funds and emphasized the sharing of information with relevant parties such as cryptocurrency exchanges. These measures can play a crucial role in curbing illicit activities in the crypto sphere.

In addition to tracing and information sharing, stakeholders in the cryptocurrency space must remain vigilant and informed about the tactics employed by cybercriminals.

Understanding the strategies used by malicious actors is essential to developing effective countermeasures and ensuring the security and integrity of the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Benson Mawira

Benson is a blockchain reporter who has delved into industry news, on-chain analysis, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc.His area of expertise is the cryptocurrency markets, fundamental and technical analysis.With his insightful coverage of everything in Financial Technologies, Benson has garnered a global readership.

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