A record amount of cryptocurrency has been stolen from online exchanges in the first half of 2018, according to a study into online heists.
Cybersecurity start-up CipherTrace said that the amount of cryptocurrency being stolen and used in money laundering in the first half of 2018 was already three times the amount stolen in the whole of 2017.
A report from the company said that it had found that $761m (£577m) had been laundered since the start of the year from cryptocurrency exchanges. For all of 2017, the company found that $266m was stolen.
A series of prominent hacks of cryptocurrency exchanges in recent months has been associated with a dip in the price of popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Last month, South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb announced that it had been hacked and more than £20m of cryptocurrency had been stolen. The company has since said that it has managed to recover 45pc of the stolen money.
Cyber attacks are a particular sensitive matter in the cryptocurrency world because of a notorious hack on the Japan-based exchange Mt Gox in 2013.
Mt Gox handled around 70pc of the world's Bitcoin transactions at the time, and the hack, in which £251m of Bitcoin was stolen, led to a collapse in the cryptocurrency's price.
Major hacks of online exchanges typically cause a dip in the price of Bitcoin. These incidents have likely contributed to Bitcoin’s current price slump. The cryptocurrency currently trades around $6,500, around a third of the peak value that it reached in December 2017.
Cryptocurrencies are popular with criminals as they can be used to make anonymous payments and evade law enforcement. Many forms of cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, maintain a public record of transactions. However, the identity of whoever sends or receives the payments is typically hidden.
Stolen cryptocurrency is particularly popular with criminals, as it enables them to avoid registering payment methods with online exchanges, which could be used to trace their identity.
CipherTrace also announced on Tuesday that it had released a cryptocurrency anti-money laundering product which businesses can use to identify if transactions use stolen virtual currency. The product can assign risk scores to customers to help businesses avoid fraudulent transactions.