How DeFi's Rise Impacts Cross-Chain Criminal Activities

Last Updated September 19th 2023
4 Min Read

Key Takeaways -

  • Cross-chain crimes involving the anonymous transfer of crypto assets between blockchains have surged, laundering about $4 billion in 2022.
  • The North Korea-based Lazarus Group exemplifies how criminals adapt to new security measures, shifting their operations to evade sanctions.
  • The rise in cross-chain crimes raises serious security concerns and may prompt regulatory bodies to implement new security mechanisms like Proof-of-Stake.

The world of cryptocurrency is at a pivotal juncture, teetering between mainstream acceptance and a growing underbelly of illicit activities. The decentralized finance (DeFi) sector, in particular, has emerged as a breeding ground for scams, frauds, and various forms of illegal transactions. This article aims to delve deep into this alarming trend, offering insights that could be crucial for both new and seasoned investors.

The Elliptic Report

Recently, Elliptic, a frontrunner in blockchain analytics, released a comprehensive report that sheds light on a deeply troubling trend—cross-chain crime. Criminals are increasingly exploiting the anonymity features inherent in blockchain technology to launder money. The scale of this activity is staggering. According to the report, in the year 2022 alone, a whopping $4 billion in cryptocurrencies were laundered through these cross-chain activities.

Understanding Cross-Chain Crime

Cross-chain crime is not just a buzzword; it's a sophisticated method involving the anonymous transfer of crypto assets from one blockchain to another to elude detection. This form of criminal activity has seen an exponential rise, particularly since DeFi platforms gained widespread popularity in 2021. The Elliptic report also introduces the concept of "crime displacement," highlighting how criminals are quick to adapt their strategies when faced with new security measures or regulations.

The Lazarus Group

A case in point is the North Korea-based hacking group known as Lazarus. This group shifted their money-laundering operations to a different platform, the Avalanche Bridge after the U.S. government imposed sanctions on their previously used platform, Tornado Cash. This move exemplifies the adaptability and resourcefulness of criminals in the crypto space.

The Appeal of Cross-Chain to Criminals

The allure of cross-chain activities for criminals is multi-faceted. A significant chunk of crypto crimes now involves lesser-known or even obscure digital currencies, which are often not on the radar of traditional financial systems. Furthermore, many cross-chain platforms conveniently bypass the need for identity verification, thereby lowering the barriers to criminal activities. On top of that, conventional blockchain analytics tools find it exceedingly challenging to track these cross-chain transactions, adding another layer of complexity to the issue.

Security and Regulation

Security and Regulation

The surge in cross-chain criminal activities has broad and potentially devastating implications. For instance, the recent hack involving a $55 million breach of the crypto exchange CoinEx has raised alarm bells about the overall security and stability of online crypto platforms. In response, regulatory bodies are considering the implementation of new security mechanisms, such as Proof-of-Stake, to bolster the integrity of these platforms.

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