Crypto phishing attacks reached ‘alarming levels’ — CertiK co-founder


While the first quarter of 2024 seems “relatively typical” when it comes to hacks and exploits, Ronghui Gu, the co-founder of blockchain security firm CertiK, said the complexity of private key compromises and phishing attacks raises concerns.

Gu told Cointelegraph that among the incidents this quarter, losses attributed to private key compromises had increased significantly compared to the first quarter of 2023.

In its quarterly security report titled Hack3d, CertiK highlighted that losses from this attack reached $239 million there being only 26 incidents.

Chart showing the number of incidents and amount lost for Q1 2024. Source: CertiK

Compared to the same time period in 2023, when losses were only around $18.8 million, this quarter recorded a 1,171% increase in losses caused by compromised private keys.

Apart from private key compromises, the overall number of incidents attributed to phishing attacks reached 83 with the total losses reaching $64 million. Gu explained that the complexity of such attacks also raises concerns.

“The sophistication and success of phishing attacks have also reached alarming levels, with 18 phishing incidents, each causing over $1 million in losses,” he added.

Despite these two attack vectors being a constant risk for the Web3 space, Gu believes the crypto community is not entirely helpless. He said implementing multisig wallets and multi-party computation can greatly enhance security. He said:

“Private keys are the keystones of security in the blockchain world. Multisig wallets and multi-party computation can enhance security by distributing authorization power, thus mitigating the risk of single-point failures and unauthorized access.”

Gu explained that these techniques ensure that no single entity holds complete control over the assets. This means that attackers must attack multiple parties to gain access to a project’s private keys.

Related: Nearly $100M recovered from hacks in March — PeckShield

While the threats seem like a Web3 problem, Gu believes that countering targeted and advanced attacks requires incorporating both Web2 and Web3 security practices.

This includes properly encrypting internal systems, implementing multi-factor authentication and conducting regular security audits to address potential vulnerabilities.

Apart from these, Gu also noted that educating employees is necessary to combat security attacks. “Educating team members on the latest phishing and social engineering tactics can significantly reduce the risk of compromises.”

Losses from Web3 security incidents by quarter. Source: CertiK 

When asked if the trends observed in the first quarter would carry over to the rest of the year, Gu predicted tha a continuation is reasonable because of the recent market upswing. He explained that as the market grows, the incentive for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities also increases.

“This, combined with the escalating sophistication of attacks, suggests that we should not only expect the continuation of serious security incidents but also proactively prepare for the emergence of new, innovative attack vectors,” he added.

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