SecurityBrief Asia logo
Asia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Crypto giveaway scams continue to soar, according to report

Cybersecurity firm Group-IB has noted a fivefold increase in the number of domains used for crypto giveaway scams that involve fake YouTube streams in the first half of 2022. 

In addition to Vitalik Buterin, Elon Musk, and other crypto celebs, scammers started exploiting the name of Nayib Bukele, the president of Salvador. 

Since Group-IB's first report on the scheme, crypto giveaway scams evolved into an illicit market segment with multiple services that aim to facilitate fraudulent operations.

 According to Group-IB, 63% of the new fraudulent domain names were registered with Russian registrars, but the fake websites are primarily designed to target English and Spanish-speaking crypto investors in the US and other countries. The researchers also compiled a list of the most popular keywords used by scammers in fake domain names.

For the first time, the 24/7 Group-IB Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-GIB) observed a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent YouTube streams featuring big names such as Elon Musk, Brad Garlinghouse, Michael J. Saylor, and Cathie Wood in February this year. The scammers used the footage of famous entrepreneurs and crypto enthusiasts to encourage users to visit a promotional website to double their crypto investment by transferring crypto to the specified address or disclosing the seed phrase of their crypto wallet to receive even better terms.

Group-IB experts have discovered that the scheme has been scaled significantly in just half a year. In the first six months of 2022, CERT-GIB identified more than 2,000 domains registered explicitly to be used as fake promotion websites. This figure increased almost five-fold compared to the second half of 2021 and 53-fold in comparison with H1 2021. As reported earlier, in the first quarter of 2022 (Jan-Mar), Group-IB researchers discovered 583 fake websites involved in the scheme. In the second quarter, the Group-IB team found more than 1,500 more new domains set up by scammers to promote fake giveaways.

Scammers keep up with the latest headlines. One of the names most recently used as bait was Nayib Bukele, 43rd president of El Salvador.

Scammers also advertised promo sites featuring the soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Both names were chosen for a reason. In 2021, mainly on the initiative of its president, El Salvador became the first country to adopt bitcoin as the national currency. Cristiano Ronaldo became the first football star paid with cryptocurrency: the player was awarded a bonus of 770 crypto tokens from his club Juventus, one for each goal scored in his career. In June 2022, Binance, a crypto trading platform, announced an exclusive partnership with Christiano Ronaldo.

According to Group-IB, over 60% of scam domains involved in the scheme were registered via Russian domain name registrars. However, such resources usually use generic top-level domains because they are designed to steal cryptocurrency from English-speaking users. All content on fake websites is in English and sometimes in Spanish. The top five most popular domain zones used by scam websites promoting crypto giveaways include .com (31.65%), .net (23.86%), .org (22.94%), and .us (5.89%).

After analysing the domain names, GroupIB experts compiled a rating of keywords most often used by scammers. At the top of the list are ETH(Ethereum), Ark, Elon Musk, and Shiba.

Hijacking of YouTube accounts

The primary source for attracting traffic to scam websites is YouTube, with Twitch and crypto streaming platforms trailing behind. On average, the number of viewers of fake streams amounts to between 10,000 and 20,000, including bots. To set up a fake stream, threat actors either highjack YouTube accounts themselves using dedicated stealer tools or buy/rent accounts on underground forums for a percentage of the stolen funds, which in most cases is between 10% and 50% of the streamers earnings. The price of a lot on the account exchange largely depends on the number of subscribers. The more subscribers a channel has, the more complaints it will take for the platform to block it. Among the accounts recently compromised or hijacked by crypto scammers, one was created in 2011 and had over 50,000 subscribers.

After gaining access to a legitimate account, a fake crypto streamer renames the channel, deletes all the previously uploaded videos from the playlist, changes the user pic, adds new design features, and uploads relevant crypto-related content. When fraudsters start a stream, they use viewer-boosting tools to make it to the recommendations of their target audience. On average, attracting a thousand viewers would cost scammers $100, while five thousand are priced at $200.

A marketplace for crypto scams

The phenomenal growth of fake crypto giveaways can be explained by a significantly enhanced arsenal and availability of tools for crypto scammers, even with low technical skills. In July,Group-IB Digital RiskProtection experts recorded up to five streams promoting fake crypto giveaways per day.

Group-IB revealed that forums used by scammers make up a full-fledged marketplace that can help even first-time non-tech-savvy scammers carry out a crypto fraud scheme. It is of note that most of these forums are Russian speaking. Scammers have the following at their disposal: an exchange platform for hacked YouTube accounts, viewer boosting services, manuals, website editors, admin panel developers, domain names, bulletproof hosting, and tools and people who can create deepfake videos. These mentors, designers, promotion specialists, and miscellaneous contractors charge an advance payment plus a percentage of the stolen funds.

The most popular service is crypto stream design. The average price ranges between $100 and $300, depending on the scope. Production of a deep fake video showing a celebrity would cost around $30.

Another high-demand service is the development of fake promo websites designed to show visitors the mechanism behind a fake giveaway. The price of a landing page can range from $200 to $600, depending on the relevance of the design.

Manuals typically start from $100. In some cases, the price is a combination of a flat rate and a percentage of earnings. There are also two-in-one offers that sell both manuals and training for a percentage of the stolen amount. Scammers can also buy toolkits designed to automate fraudulent operations. A subscription to an advanced toolkit ranges between $500 and $1,500 per month.

Scams targeting crypto enthusiasts are becoming increasingly common, and their scope and sophistication are growing, comments CERT-GIB. Crypto giveaway scams have evolved into a profitable illicit market segment. Small-time scammers and more advanced cybercriminals band together, allowing them to automate and streamline operations.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Cybersecurity
Continuous attack attempts discovered on Atlassian Confluence zero day
Following a coordinated disclosure of a zero-day vulnerability by Volexity in Atlassian Confluence, attackers went wild to exploit it.
Story image
Malware
Mandiant uncovers malware ecosystem deployed on VMware hypervisors and guest systems
Mandiant research has uncovered a novel malware ecosystem that was found deployed on VMware hypervisors and guest systems by an advanced and suspected China nexus threat actor.
Story image
Microsoft
Yubico research finds concerning trends around authentication security practices
A new global survey from Yubico has found that 59% of employees still rely on usernames and passwords as the primary method to authenticate their accounts.
Story image
Malware
Black Lotus Labs discovers new, multipurpose malware
Black Lotus Labs, the threat intelligence team at Lumen, has discovered a new, rapidly growing, multipurpose malware written in the Go programming language.
Story image
Apple
Jamf shows intent to acquire mobile security firm ZecOps
This acquisition positions Jamf to help IT and security teams strengthen their organisation’s mobile security posture.
Story image
Work from home
Jamf showcases new products to simplify and secure work
At the 13th annual Jamf Nation User Conference, the company shared how its continuous product innovation is helping organisations succeed with Apple.
Story image
Network Management
Fortinet introduces enhanced AIOps across its gateways
FortiAIOps builds on Fortinet's rich history of developing artificial intelligence to deliver actionable network insights for self-optimising management.
Story image
Kaspersky
Cybersecurity loopholes prevalent in South East Asia
In terms of the share of vulnerabilities with publicly available exploits, three countries out of top five are located in Southeast Asia.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Best practices for industrial cyber resilience
Operational technology (OT) security is gaining more attention than ever before, but sufficient understanding of what it takes to prevent breaches is still lacking amongst many organisations.
Story image
Threat intelligence
Trellix advances threat intelligence with new research centre
Trellix has announced the establishment of the Trellix Advanced Research Center to advance global threat intelligence.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Ordr improves security and management of connected devices
It has implemented more than 80 integrations within the Ordr Data Lake while adding security enhancements to accelerate zero trust segmentation.
Story image
Firewall
Forrester names Akamai as web application firewall leader
"We continually monitor and improve our capabilities to defend customers from new threats, while enabling customers to protect evolving attack surfaces."
Story image
Legacy
Trellix enables greater cyber resiliency with extended XDR platform
"Legacy SIEM technology has failed to modernise security operations. We are confident Trellix XDR fills this critical gap.”
Story image
Enterprise
Delinea shares the importance of PAM, partners and security for modern enterprise
Identity-based security is becoming a crucial tool for modern enterprises as they continue to adapt to different working environments.
Story image
Phishing
Vectra Protect team finds Microsoft Teams vulnerability
The Vectra Protect team identified a post-exploitation opportunity in August, allowing malicious actors to steal valid user credentials from Microsoft Teams.
Story image
Virtual Private Network
95% of organisation rely on VPN as threats continue - report
There is a growing number of VPN-specific security threats and a need for Zero Trust security architecture in enterprise-level organisations.
Story image
Data Protection
Cloudflare brings Data Localisation Suite to more APAC businesses
This allows any business in these countries to service their data locally while benefiting from the speed, security, and scalability of Cloudflare’s global network.
Story image
Software-as-a-Service
Varonis adds secrets discovery to data classification
The data security firm announces enhancements that detect and remediate overexposed private keys, encryption certificates, API keys, and authentication tokens.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from SearchInform
Val Novoselova joins us today to to discuss new trends in the information security space, and how SearchInform is adapting to some of the new trends we are seeing.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Test your API Security with Infinite API Scanner
The effectiveness of API scanning technology can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful programming outcomes, and often enterprises and IT leaders struggle to get it right.
Story image
Cybersecurity
De-risking the innovation cycle – a modern, real-time approach to security
Many organisations see cybersecurity as an inhibitor of innovation, with burdensome protection measures standing in the way of progress and speed.
Story image
Software-as-a-Service
Enterprises yet to fully commit to cybersecurity - CompTIA
“Digital transformation driven by cloud and mobile adoption requires a new strategic approach to cybersecurity, but this poses significant challenges."
Story image
IT Training
Six ways to transform your cybersecurity training and influence lasting change
If the goal is to win hearts and minds, formal awareness training can fall short and often doesn’t inspire people to care.
Story image
Secure Code Warrior
Secure Code Warrior announces Coding Labs innovation
Coding Labs mechanisms allow developers to move from learning to applying secure coding knowledge more efficiently, leading to fewer code vulnerabilities.
Story image
Cloud
How modern IT architectures are moving beyond network visibility
Dealing with multiple cloud providers makes it difficult to identify security threats and performance bottlenecks and troubleshoot issues.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Macroeconomic headwinds driving security up priority list
Current macroeconomic headwinds are driving security up enterprise’s priority list and reshaping the hardware Security Module market.
Story image
Edge Security
Security practices for modernising the “spaghetti” of on-premises IT
Many organisations are wondering how to securely modernise their workload, often made up of a “spaghetti” of on-premises applications and management consoles.
Aws Marketplace
Learn how to implement a backup and recovery plan for a new generation of Kubernetes-based modern applications
Link image
Story image
Cybersecurity
StackHawk launches deeper API security test coverage
Expansion of test coverage includes custom scan discovery, custom test scripts and custom test data for REST APIs.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Ransomware attacks continue to increase, report finds
Nearly a quarter of businesses have suffered a ransomware attack, with a fifth occurring in the past 12 months.
Story image
Cloud Security
75% of AU companies had cloud security incident in past year
According to new Venafi research, complexity is due to increase, as companies plan to host more applications in the cloud.
Story image
Ransomware
Delinea updates DevOps security, remote access more seamless
New enhancements include development support on the most recent Mac computers and improved secrets' management usability through automation.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Fortinet advances AIOps to aid the hybrid workforce
"We’re continuing our commitment to AI innovation by delivering AIOps capabilities across our robust portfolio of enterprise networking technology."
Story image
Malware
Kaspersky uncovers new malicious malware NullMixer
Kaspersky researchers have uncovered a new malware stealing users credentials, address, credit card data, cryptocurrencies, and accounts.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Employees unsure who to go to to report security incident
A new study shows more than 20% of the untrained global workforce do not know who to contact during a security breach.
Story image
Data Protection
99% of security experts unhappy with tokenisation investment
Cybersecurity experts are looking for a solution that provides the strength of tokenisation while removing the friction that has accompanied it in the past.
Story image
Mobile Device Management
How to easily scale your mobile workforce and devices for the peak shopping season
Retailers are under constant pressure to streamline processes and become more efficient while looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction levels.
AWS Marketplace
Whitepaper: A practical guide for mitigating risk in today’s modern applications
Link image
Story image
Malware
Cybereason delivers nation-state level of protection to enterprises
Cybereason has announced new advancements in Cybereason NGAV that deliver nation-state level protection for organisations of all sizes.
Story image
Malware
Decrease in malware volume, but surge in encrypted malware
The Q2 Internet Security Report found office exploits continue to spread more than any other category of malware.
Story image
Hybrid Cloud
Hybrid cloud security driving need for deep observability
Gigamon is bringing application and network-level intelligence together to help network, security, and cloud IT operations teams eliminate security blind spots.