In brief

  • The volume of Bitcoin cyber-attacks has surged by almost 200% over the past eight months.
  • Spear-phishing, extortion and Bitcoin wallet impersonations are among the most favored tactics used by hackers.

The volume of Bitcoin-related cyberattacks has surged almost 200% over the past eight months, since the advent of the recent crypto bull run.

According to a report by security firm Barracuda Networks, the volume of Bitcoin-related phishing impersonations and business email compromise attacks surged by as much as 192% between October 2020 and May 2021.

The analysts say that the surge in cyberattacks closely correlates with the price of Bitcoin, which increased by almost 400% during the same time period as the recent crypto bull run kicked off.


The bull run took place against a backdrop of institutional investor interest in Bitcoin, with companies including MicroStrategy and Tesla announcing that they would add Bitcoin to their corporate treasuries. With Bitcoin in the headlines, retail interest surged—as did cyber attacks targeting investors' Bitcoin stashes.

Image: Barracuda

According to Fleming Shi, CTO for Barracuda Networks, previously attackers mostly impersonated financial institutions, targeting users’ banking credentials. In recent months, they’ve changed their methods, using similar tactics to steal valuable Bitcoin.

The analysts say that one of the hackers’ favorite tactics is to impersonate Bitcoin wallets or other crypto-related apps with fake security alerts to steal login credentials.

Other go-to strategies for cybercriminals are spear-phishing–a method of targeting specific individuals within an organization that appears to be from a trusted source–as well as extortion attacks, where attackers claim to be in possession of a compromising video or information. They threaten to make this information public if the victim does not pay a ransom in Bitcoin.

One way for companies to resist such threats, according to Barracuda, is “to train users and employees to recognize the latest tactics used by hackers,” as well as to back up their data and insure themselves against the surging volume of ransomware attacks.


The report follows a number of recent high-profile ransomware attacks, including those against gasoline pipeline firm Colonial Pipeline and the meat processing company JBS.

In the wake of these incidents, the US Department of Justice announced that ransomware would be prioritized along the same lines as terrorism.

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