With the advent of cryptocurrencies, cyber-attacks targeting this sector have become very common. One of the best known is the Dusting Attack. This is an attack in which hackers and fraudsters attempt to invade the privacy of cryptocurrency users by sending small amounts of coins to their personal wallets.
It is nothing new that many Bitcoin users take it for granted that their anonymity is well protected against hacking of their transactions, however, this is not the case. In this article we will tell you all about what dusting attack is and how it works.
In cryptocurrency terminology, the term “dust” is used to refer to small amounts of coins or tokens, insignificant amounts that most users overlook. An example of this is Bitcoin itself. Its smallest amount is 1 satoshi or 0.00000001 BTC. This makes us consider a few hundred satoshis as “dust”.
Simply put, we refer to dust when we talk about a transaction or amount so small that it is not even worth sending, since it is less than the fee required for the transaction. It is very common that most users are not aware of the dust in their wallets so they don’t even notice where it comes from. The problem comes with the dusting attack.
The first thing to keep in mind is that a dusting attack is an attack that aims to compromise the privacy and pseudo-anonymity provided by most cryptocurrencies. To carry it out, hackers use small amounts of “particles” in the form of satoshis which they send to thousands of wallets. These particles are categorized as spam on the blockchain, so the hackers send something like massive spam, which is reflected in users’ balances.
When spam has reached wallets, attackers focus on tracking user transactions. This technique, accompanied by the ideal tools for data tracking and analysis, allows hackers to find out the identity behind an address, be it Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. This is usually achieved through mining data from numerous websites and the metadata left behind by transactions. Basically, it would be the trail left by breadcrumbs, but on the network. These crumbs help the hacker to discover the true identity of a user.
As expected, carrying out a dusting attack is not easy. It requires time and knowledge that few users have. Below we will tell you the steps to follow to perform a dusting attack:
As mentioned above, to carry out this attack, the most important thing is to send small transactions to the victims. This requires funds to cover these transactions. Another important element is to know the dust limit in the cryptocurrency in which the attack will be carried out, as well as the blockchain network. This step is very important, since it ensures that the transactions. To understand it better, let’s take an example; the Dust limit in Bitcoin is 546 satoshis, so any transaction of an equal or lesser amount will pass through the blockchain as dust.
The next step in planning an attack is to create a list of addresses. These addresses of interest will help the hacker establish targets to send transactions to. These addresses are usually important and active people in the cryptocurrency world. Once the transactions have been sent to this list of contacts, the attack begins.
After the attack starts, the next step is transaction analysis and data mining. In this step, when users perform a transaction, hackers could track that transaction. It should be noted that this step does not only take place on the blockchain, but can also be performed on any website related to the victim of the attack. In data analysis, it is essential to create what would be a “listening area” to track any movement of the victim. This is how to capture any data that is sent and one by one they will increase the possibility of tracing the real identity of the victim.
Once the victim’s identity is known, hackers use coercion, blackmail, theft or fraud techniques. In this last step, the attackers recover the capital invested in the dust transactions.
So far we have seen what a Dusting Attack consists of and how it is carried out. At this point you can already imagine the seriousness of falling into one of these attacks. However, we will now tell you what the main risks of a Dusting Attack are.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the blockchain is public and transparaent place. In this space, transactions are fully visible from a blockchain browser. When we use a blockchain explorer we can investigate the financial history of a transaction, as well as the wallet it came from, its balance, and so on. This does not mean that the blockchain is an unsafe place, but rather that it is a transparent place.
To avoid falling victim to this type of attack, the solution is to protect our data from public exposure. Nowadays this is a complicated task, since our data circulate all over the Internet as if they were products, but it is not impossible to achieve it. It is important to have total control over our data and to use decentralized systems that guarantee our security and privacy.
The first thing we must do is to ensure the protection of our data. Do not provide our full names, address, telephone number and bank account. Although at first glance it may seem that with these data you can’t get very far, for hackers they represent an easy way for an attack.
Another important point is to store our cryptocurrencies in wallets that include countermeasures against the dusting attack and not to use cryptocurrency addresses more than once, especially if they have been published in a public space. Otherwise, the address would serve to create a data pattern that will lead the attacker to our identity.