Crypto phishing scams treble over last year to 6.6% of all phishing attacks

Crypto phishing scams treble over last year to 6.6% of all phishing attacks

By Dan Ashmore - min read

Key Takeaways

  • The percentage of phishing attacks crypto is responsible for has more than trebled to 6.6% in 2022
  • Percentage of phishing attacks crypto is responsible for is less than other industries when compared to overall market cap
  • Payments industry suffered a 6.1% rise in phishing scams compared to 2021
  • Regulators will be looking at such studies as they aim to draw up legislation for the still-nascent industry, but SaaS, social media and payments industries all have a proportionally higher phishing record. 


Everybody knows somebody who has fallen for a phishing scam. These scams seem to be becoming more and more prevalent, but I was curious to see what the breakdown between industries is, and which sectors are suffering more and more. Additionally, with cryptocurrency often brandished as a playground for criminals and fraud, do the numbers actually back up this preconception?

Phishing attacks in 2021

In 2021, cryptocurrency was responsible for only 2% of phishing attacks, as the below graph shows. The dominant industries were financial services, social media and SaaS/ webmail, which combined contributed to over 68% of attacks. 


However, Q1 of 2021 is a long time ago in the world of cryptocurrency. The market cap of the industry began that quarter just shy of $800 billion (it closed it approaching $2 trillion after explosive growth).

So, how do these numbers compare to one year on – Q1 of 2022? The market cap of crypto was $2.2 trillion entering the quarter (and then $2.1 trillion exiting it, it was actually relatively stable – the bloodbath commenced in Q2). So with the crypto market much larger and more established, as the market cap was 2.8X bigger in 2022 than in the entrance to 2021, it helps provide context to the fact that phishing attacks as a percentage increased more than 3X from 2% to 6.6% over the last year.


The full graph showing all industries is below, showing the updated position of how cryptocurrency stacks up against other industries.  


Movement compared to other industries

Another finding of the figures is the fact that phishing attacks targeting the payment industry increased 6.1%, despite the industry not moving much in terms of overall size. 

This paints further context to the growth in the crypto figure, as the sector is not dissimilar to payments, suggesting perhaps this is becoming more of a target for phishing attacks. Nonetheless, seeing payments attacks jump so starkly is significantly more jarring than the move in cryptocurrency, which has a very real reason to point to the growth in size of the industry and the fact that regulation has yet to catch up. 


Size of industry context

However, with the size of cryptocurrency now coming in above several industries in the study, this needs to be considered – the size of the market obviously affects how common phishing attacks are. 

Indeed, the SaaS/webmail industry has a significantly bigger problem, with 20% of attacks, yet an estimated industry value of under $200 billion coming in well short of crypto. Social media’s prevalence of attacks also dwarfs crypto with $200 billion value yet 12.5% of attacks (and this figure was north of 20% the year prior). Payments industry too, the graph shows, compares unfavourably with crypto. 



In assessing what this all means, firstly the change from 2% to 6.6% over the last year more or less matches the growth of the industry and is to be expected. Additionally, compared to other industries crypto does not seem to be an outlier, with the amount of attacks compared to the industry size coming in well short of others such as SaaS, social media and payments. 

The data hence suggests that crypto is somewhat unfairly tarred with its wild west reputation, despite the fact it remains a problem. 

There is no getting around the fact that the space definitely has a dark side to it, if only that is a tiny proportion of all the innovation and progress being made elsewhere. And it is this dark side that hopefully will begin to be reined in, and what regulators will have their eyes keenly set on – however, in looking at the numbers and comparing to other industries, crypto is not alone, and the good very much outweighs the bad. 




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