Hack vs Scam vs Attack vs Exploit: Understanding the Risks in Crypto and How To Stay Safe
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Hack vs Scam vs Attack vs Exploit: Understanding the Risks in Crypto and How To Stay Safe

Created 9mo ago, last updated 9mo ago

Explore the differences between crypto hacks, scams, attacks and exploits, and learn strategies to safeguard your digital assets. Enhance your crypto security knowledge.

Hack vs Scam vs Attack vs Exploit: Understanding the Risks in Crypto and How To Stay Safe

Table of Contents


  • Crypto hacking entails infiltrating a system or network. After gaining entry, hackers can steal data or digital assets, or inflict harm on the system.
  • Crypto scams revolves around deceiving people into giving away sensitive data, private keys to their wallets or their crypto assets directly. This could come from counterfeit or phishing emails to rug pulls.
  • Attacks have a wider scope, including any action targeting a digital system or network with the intent to cause disruption or damage.
  • Crypto exploits refer specifically to exploiting vulnerabilities, typically in crypto software to gain access and drain assets.

As the use of cryptocurrencies gains widespread adoption, so too does the prevalence of associated risks. Hacks, scams, attacks and exploits have all become common occurrences in the crypto ecosystem, resulting in significant financial losses for both crypto users and even institutions.

In this article, we will delve into the distinctions between these four terms, and explore strategies for safeguarding oneself against them. Whether you are an experienced crypto investor or a novice, a comprehensive understanding of these risks and how to mitigate them is paramount.

Let’s delve further into the realm of crypto hacks, scams, attacks and exploits.

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Crypto Hacks

Crypto hacks have become an unfortunate and frequent event — just take a look at the worst hacks last year. Hacks involve unauthorized access and theft of digital assets or information from cryptocurrency exchanges or wallets. These incidents can occur due to various reasons, such as vulnerabilities in security systems, social engineering techniques, or even insider theft.
The aftermath of such hacks can be disastrous for both the exchange or wallet and its users. Retrieving stolen digital assets can be challenging, or even impossible, while the reputation of the exchange or wallet can be irreparably damaged. A prime example is the infamous Mt. Gox hack in 2014, where 850,000 bitcoins worth over $450 million were stolen, resulting in Mt. Gox's bankruptcy and a diminished trust in cryptocurrency security.

Digital currency exchanges and wallets must employ robust security protocols, including two-factor authentication and cold storage, to shield against hackers. Periodic security evaluations can further help in identifying vulnerabilities.

It's also important to remember: “not your keys, not your crypto.” Cryptocurrency users bear significant responsibility in averting hacks by securing their private keys, utilizing distinct passwords, and refrain from holding all of their digital assets on a single exchange or wallet.

Regulatory bodies can also assume a pivotal role in preventing hacks in the crypto space. By establishing and enforcing security regulations and standards, they can guarantee that exchanges and wallets adhere to a certain degree of accountability, safeguarding users in the process.

Recent Crypto Hacks

Level Finance recently experienced a $1 million exploit due to a buggy smart contract. The decentralized finance (DeFi) platform's vulnerability was exploited by a hacker who took advantage of the faulty smart contract to drain funds from the platform. Level Finance confirmed the incident and assured users that it would investigate the issue further to identify the cause and ensure it does not happen again.

In another case, Hundred Finance lost $7 million in an Optimism hack. According to Certik, the hacker “manipulated the exchange rate between ERC-20 tokens and hTOKENS,” allowing them to withdraw more tokens than deposited. Hundred Finance acknowledged the breach and assured users that it would work closely with the Optimism team to address the security flaws and recover the stolen funds. These two incidents emphasize the growing risks associated with the rapidly evolving DeFi ecosystem and the need for rigorous security measures to protect users and their digital assets.

Crypto Scams

In the world of digital currencies and anonymous personas, scams are becoming a widespread problem — causing people to lose their crypto assets or personal information. These scams usually happen through phishing emails or websites, schemes that promise big returns but don't deliver, fake crypto projects or rug pulls, and fake trading platforms.
Phishing scams trick people into giving their login information or private keys to fake websites or emails that look real. Ponzi schemes are crypto projects that offer high returns, but depend on new people joining to pay older members. Fake projects create a token and rug pull — dumping the token on people who bought and disappearing with the money. Finally, fake trading platforms attract users with good deals but then take their crypto assets and disappear.

To avoid being scammed, it's important to be careful and watch out. Only use trusted trading places and digital wallets that have a good history of safety, research before investing, and be careful of any unexpected offers or messages asking for personal information or online money. Keep your private keys safe and don't share them with anyone.

Recent Crypto Scam

With the increasing excitement around memecoins like PEPE, malicious individuals have begun to exploit the situation, leading to an influx of scams in the crypto space.
Blockchain security company PeckShield reported that in May, there have been a minimum of 10 memecoin scams initiated. The firm identified and notified recent scam tokens that removed liquidity, causing unsuspecting investors to fall prey to rug-pulling schemes.

Crypto Attacks

As the cryptocurrency landscape continues to expand, the threat of cyberattacks like Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks, malware attacks and ransomware attacks is increasingly prevalent. A DoS attack overwhelms a network or system by flooding it with excessive traffic, causing it to become inoperable. In the context of cryptocurrencies, these attacks can target exchanges or platforms, effectively denying users access to their digital assets or the ability to carry out transactions.

Malware attacks, on the other hand, entail the installation of malicious software on a system or network, granting an unauthorized party access to sensitive information or digital assets. Within crypto, these attacks can result in private keys or login credentials being stolen, providing an intruder with access to digital assets worth millions of dollars.

Ransomware attacks involve the encryption of a system or network's files, with the decryption key only being provided upon the payment of a ransom. These attacks can target exchanges or wallets, effectively preventing users from accessing their digital assets until the ransom is satisfied.

To protect against these attacks, cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets must adopt strong security measures, conduct routine security audits, and utilize cold storage solutions to mitigate cyber threats.

Recent Crypto Attacks

A major cyberattack has struck one of the biggest cryptocurrency mining pools in the world, which offers mining options for a range of digital assets, including Bitcoin and Litecoin, causing a significant loss of both company and customer funds.

The incident took place on Dec. 3, 2022, with the attackers managing to steal roughly $700,000 in client assets and $2.3 million in assets belonging to the company.

Crypto Exploits

An exploit in the cryptocurrency world is a technique that takes advantage of a flaw or vulnerability within a system to gain unauthorized access, execute malicious code, or cause other undesirable effects. Such exploits often lead to the theft of coins or tokens, resulting in financial losses for the victims. These exploits can occur in various ways, including software bugs, network attacks, or even human errors, and are becoming increasingly common in the crypto realm.

Some common types of cryptocurrency exploits include flash loan attacks, 51% attacks, and wash trading. Flash loan attacks involve malicious actors taking out cryptocurrency loans to manipulate the market, while 51% attacks occur when a single entity or group gains control of over 50% of a Proof-of-Work network's mining power, enabling them to double-spend coins and disrupt transaction confirmations. Wash trading, on the other hand, involves the artificial inflation of a token's price through rapid buying and selling by a trader, with the aim of making a profit when the price is pumped up. The consequences of these exploits can range from minor losses to significant financial damage.

In March of 2023, the crypto industry saw a total of 23 major attacks, marking the second-lowest number of attacks since February 2022, which had 21. The average loss per attack in March was $10,149,676, a substantial increase from February's average of $1,742,748 per attack.

Recent Crypto Exploits

The most significant exploit in March was the Euler Finance incident, resulting in a loss of around $200 million. Occurring on March 13, 2023, it has been the largest attack this year. The attacker, known as Jacob, leveraged assets borrowed from a flash loan and exploited vulnerabilities within Euler's pool contracts to drain five Euler Finance Pools. Since then, Jacob has gradually returned $177 million of the stolen funds.

The second-largest exploit happened on Feb 3, when Polygon-based lending and stablecoin protocol, BonqDAO and AllianceBlock, was hit by a two-stage attack on Wednesday in a price oracle manipulation. The exploit was reported to be $120 million, although the exploiter only managed to siphon off $1.3 million worth due to low liquidity.

Differences Between Hack, Scam, Attack and Exploit

Understanding the nuances between hacking, scamming, attacking and exploiting is essential. These terms refer to distinct types of threats that can compromise one’s digital assets.

Hacking involves breaking into a system or network, often through exploiting vulnerabilities in software or hardware. This may involve techniques like brute force attacks or phishing scams. Once access is gained, hackers can steal data or digital assets, or cause damage to the system.

Scamming, on the other hand, is focused on tricking individuals into giving away sensitive information or crypto. This can take many forms, from fake emails posing as legitimate crypto platforms to fraudulent investment schemes.

Attacks are broader in scope, encompassing any action that aims to disrupt, damage, or destroy a digital system or network.

Exploits, meanwhile, refer specifically to taking advantage of vulnerabilities in software or hardware to gain unauthorized access or control over a system or network.

It's important to note that while hacking and exploiting are similar and often require technical skills and knowledge, scamming and attacking can be carried out through social engineering tactics like phishing.

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