2023 Sees a Decrease in Illicit Crypto Activity

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  • Illicit cryptocurrency dealings dropped to $24.2 billion in 2023.
  • Illicit transactions made up a smaller fraction of total crypto activity than the year before.
  • Stablecoins have overtaken Bitcoin as the currency of choice for illegal transactions.
  • Despite drops in scam and hacking revenues, ransomware income rose in 2023.
  • No single darknet market has filled the vacuum left by Hydra’s closure.

In 2023, the world of cryptocurrency saw a notable shift in the landscape of illicit activities.

A recent report from Chainalysis, indicate that the total value funneled through illegal channels in the crypto space fell to $24.2 billion, marking a downturn from the figures recorded in prior years.

Data shows that illegal transactions now make up just 0.34% of all cryptocurrency dealings, a slight dip from the 0.42% seen in 2022. This suggests that the overall health of the crypto market may be on the mend, with less of its volume tainted by unlawful activities.

2023 Sees a Decrease in Illicit Crypto Activity
Source: Chainalysis

Stablecoins Surpass Bitcoin in Illicit Use

Stablecoins have risen to prominence, now constituting the bulk of the volume in illegal transactions.

This change upends Bitcoin’s former status as the go-to currency for such dealings. However, Bitcoin still remains the currency of choice for darknet markets and ransomware demands.

Crypto Scams and Stolen Funds

There’s some positive news on the scamming front: revenues from crypto scams have fallen by 29.2%.

Similarly, income from hacking has also seen a significant reduction, dropping by over half.

Yet, scammers continue to refine their methods, now employing romance scams to lure victims into fraudulent investment schemes.

These types of scams tend to flourish when the market is doing well and investor sentiment is high.

The United States has seen a rise in reports of investment scams related to crypto, though the actual number may be higher due to underreporting.

Ransomware and Darknet Markets Adapt and Grow

Ransomware attackers have apparently adapted to improvements in cybersecurity, as evidenced by an uptick in their revenue in 2023.

Meanwhile, the darknet market has bounced back following a previous slump and the takedown of Hydra, a major marketplace.

Despite Hydra’s absence, the sector is showing signs of recovery, although no single market has yet to take Hydra’s place as the dominant force.

2023 Sees a Decrease in Illicit Crypto Activity
Source: Chainalysis

Sanctioned Entities and Cryptocurrency

Sanctioned entities have become increasingly visible in the realm of illicit crypto transactions.

Preferred by those facing sanctions and involved in terrorism financing, stablecoins offer a convenient means of exchange.

However, issuers of stablecoins have the ability to freeze funds if they suspect misuse. It’s worth noting that the figures on illicit activity don’t account for revenues from crimes that aren’t native to the cryptocurrency domain.

Still, law enforcement agencies have the tools to investigate such crimes, with Chainalysis solutions providing substantial investigative support.

Other Notable Trends in Crypto Crime

In another positive development, DeFi hacking has seen a significant decline, possibly pointing to better security measures.

Crypto hacking remains challenging to conceal due to the noticeable outflows such activities generate.

Last, the broader market conditions and trends continue to exert influence over the levels of scamming, underscoring the need for continued vigilance in the crypto community.


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