Dubai: Cryptocurrency scams are nothing new, and scammers are constantly finding new ways to deceive investors. With the recent surge in Artificial Intelligence (AI), scammers have now started to use the trending technology to steal cryptocurrencies. Know how to protect yourself.
Meta (formerly Facebook) recently warned that hackers worldwide appeared to be taking advantage of OpenAI’s AI-powered interactive tool ChatGPT, and reported blocking more than 1,000 malicious links masked as ChatGPT extensions in March and April alone.
“Investors and new buyers tend to trust cryptocurrencies with greater and more loyal followings online, assuming that others have done enough research prior to investing. However, the use of AI can challenge this assumption,” said Brian Deshell, a UAE-based cryptocurrency trader and analyst.
Also, when searching keywords ‘ChatGPT’ or ‘OpenAI’ on DEXTools, a crypto trading platform tracking tokens, over 700 tokens mention either of the two keywords, indicating scammers are using the hype around the AI tool to create tokens, given that OpenAI has not made any crypto entry yet.
“Now, just because something has thousands of likes and genuine-looking comments does not necessarily mean it is a legitimate project. This is just one attack vector, and AI will give rise to many others. However, there are ways to protect yourself and your investments,” added Deshell.
How scammers target digital wallets of crypto users
In cryptocurrency scams, scammers are mostly after an investor’s crypto wallet information. Unlike targeting any other personal information or multiple variations of a password in traditional scams, as users only get one unique private key to digital wallets, that’s the primary intended target.
Deshell agreed scammers commonly rely on social engineering – which involves getting crypto users to reveal their private keys. Other attacks only require knowing a crypto user’s wallet address – which is oftentimes the only way to steal crypto.
“Reports and surveys indicate that a lot of crypto-targeted attacks are social engineering attacks; wherein users are asked to access a website, a website asks them to connect their wallet, or a transaction pops up. When a crypto user approves it, their money is gone,” Deshell added.
There are certain warning signs to look out for when deciding whether or not you should pursue plans to invest in a certain cryptocurrency, and protect your investments from being targeted in a scam.
Every cryptocurrency should have a whitepaper since this is one of the most critical aspects of an initial coin offering, which is a type of crowdfunding by which funds are raised for a new cryptocurrency venture. But what is a cryptocurrency's 'whitepaper'?
“The 'whitepaper' should explain how the cryptocurrency has been designed and how it will work. If the whitepaper doesn’t make sense – or worse, doesn’t exist – then tread carefully,” said Brody Dunn, an investment manager at a UAE-based asset advisory firm.
Most investment businesses, it should be possible to find out who the key people behind it are. Usually, this means easy-to-find biographies of the people who run the investment plus an active presence on social media.
“If you can’t find out who is running a cryptocurrency, be cautious. Also, keep in mind that no investment can guarantee future returns because investments can go down as well as up. Any cryptocurrency offering that promises you will definitely make money is a red flag,” Dunn added.
With over 420 million crypto users worldwide, crypto wallets are becoming increasingly popular among crypto enthusiasts to hold their private keys securely. But how would you go about keeping your cryptocurrencies safe in your wallet.
“If a firm asks you to share your keys to participate in an investment opportunity, it’s highly likely to be a scam,” cautioned Deshell. “Keep your wallet keys private. Also, scammers often use high-pressure tactics to get you to invest your money quickly.”
“This involves promising discounts if you participate straightaway, aiming to reach as many people as possible in the shortest time possible – to raise money fast. If you feel the marketing for a crypto offering seems heavy-handed or makes claims without backing them up, do further research.”
Tips to protecting your crypto wallet from scammers
While the best way to protect yourself from an attack targeting your cryptocurrencies is to be aware of the risks and take measures to protect your wallet, there are a few quick go-to tips to help you stay safe when trading crypto:
1. Use a secure wallet: Protect yourself from such attacks by using a wallet that is secure and encrypted. A hardware wallet is the most secure, as it stores your private keys offline.
2. Don’t share your wallet address: Avoid sharing your wallet address with anyone, as this could lead to investors becoming potential victims of fraudulent crypto transactions.
3. Use two-factor authentication: Setting up two-factor authentication for your wallet will make it more difficult for hackers to access your funds, even if they could.
On a more positive note, AI also has the potential to automate the aspects of crypto development and act as a great tool for those using the technology that runs cryptocurrencies. However, with the risk of it being used as a tool to scam investors, you need to keep your cryptocurrencies safe.
“With hackers and scammers getting ever more industrious, it’s important to always pay attention to the addresses your wallet interacts with. Ideally, wallets need to have security features like two-factor authentication built in, and a lot of them do, so use those that do,” added Dunn.
Deshell added that certain crypto software have also started to use AI to fight such hacking attempts, with detection bots and machine learning models used to monitor transactions in real time and look for specific red flags in a new cryptocurrency’s algorithm.
Both the experts also recommended that newbie crypto investor make use of crypto storages that are offline, as it is widely regarded as the safest option and is used both by individuals and exchange platforms to secure their digital assets.