97% of cryptocurrencies stolen in 2022 came from DeFi

Charlie Taylor

Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash


According to on-chain analysis found in Crypto Crimes Report 2022 (2022 Crypto Crime Report), this year started with record amounts of cryptocurrencies stolen in the industry and the vast majority of these crimes were through DeFi platforms.

2022 could surpass 2021 in stolen cryptocurrencies

2021 was a remarkable and very profitable year for digital thieves, commonly referred to as “hackers”. With a total amount of US$3.2 billion (about $15 billion reais), the past year was a record and caught the attention of many crypto users, service providers, platforms and projects, and especially regulators, who now have the perfect justification to increase the weight of regulations to “protect consumers”. But if 2021 was bad enough, with many legitimate users harmed and the pro-regulatory narrative gaining traction, 2022 seems to have started off even more favorable to cybercriminals. In the first three months of the year (first quarter of 2022), $1.3 billion have already been stolen, representing 40% of the total loss volume in the previous period.

DeFi platforms are preferred by criminals

It is a really expressive number, but even more expressive is the dominance of the targets of these “hackers”. 97% of all thefts took place on mobile platforms. decentralized finance (DeFi). A reflection, not only of the growth of these platforms and of a greater value in assets accumulated in these portfolios, but also of a clear vulnerability in an industry still in development.

Graph showing increase in stolen cryptocurrencies since 2015, with different colors for each victim typeSource: ChainAnalysis In 2021, DeFi platforms were also the main victims, but with a lower weight in values, responsible for 71% of the theft volume; and in 2020, just over 25%.

Leaner graph showing the increasing dominance of stolen cryptocurrencies on DeFi platforms from 2020 to 2022.Source: ChainAnalysis

Attack Vectors – Security flaws and vulnerable code

In 2020, the attack vector most used by criminals were security flaws, which typically involve human error, social engineering, or systemic and infrastructure failures in custodial services. But over the course of 2021 and 2022, vulnerable codes have seen a significant increase in share, due in part to the large number of projects and smart contracts being rushed to market to keep up with the high-price hype.

Attack vectors most used by hackersSource: ChainAnalysis In the chart, Security Breach refers to security flaws; code exploits exploiting vulnerable code; flash loan to a different code exploit, with a focus on price manipulation; Unknown for unknown or confidential attack vectors; and Others for known attack vectors that do not fit into the other three main categories. The more money that enters this market, the greater the attempts to steal and there is no government regulation that can stop malicious actors from acting to the detriment of honest users. Platforms and developers increasingly need to increase their investments in security, following the growth of market capitalization and acting responsibly towards their users, as security issues will certainly be an increasingly important filter when choosing projects in that the market wants to invest or build together. Most of the successful attacks occurred even in code previously audited by specialized companies.

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