Dusting Attack, meaning, example and prevention
Table of Contents
The use of crypto and/or E-currencies has been on the rise lately in different nations of the world, especially as things are evolving and people are working towards having and running a cashless society and policies. People are becoming innovative and devising new means of being and going light while mobile.
Different kinds of e-currencies have popped up in recent times. These currencies have gone from merely being used in commercialized societies to any other society or community that is willing and open to go with the change and evolvement happening in and around the globe.
Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital means of exchange. They are basically used by individuals or a group of people. Cryptocurrencies among different people are considered as an alternative medium of exchange because governments have not regulated them.
Ranging from currencies like Bitcoin which is also known as BTC, Litecoin LTC, Ethereum known as ETH, Tron, which is also known as TRX, Ripple, Dogecoin, Coinye and a ton of other virtual currencies that spring up almost every month.
These currencies operate in a form where its users have an E-wallet where the money is stored or saved until one is set to make use of it or as usually said, to trade with. In countries where these currencies haven’t found a place, its users have a way of trading with the currencies online and making an exchange with people willing to buy.
The currencies are then sold and changed into their local currencies, making usage possible and easy. Cryptocurrencies are known to use or be secured by really complex codes because of the nature of their sensitivity and the worth they carry. They are secured in this manner to also secure their units used for exchange.
The crypto developers secure the platforms in this form in order to make breakage by hackers difficult. The method of security also makes it difficult for the users of these wallets and currencies to be known. This way, a third party cannot monitor cash flow and transactions, neither can the identities of users making different transactions be known or open to harm and theft.
Unfortunately, despite the high form and pattern of security on the digital currency, just as forms of robbery and theft are done in the regular known financial institutions, the cryptocurrency community is not left out on this. It is discovered that the value of these currencies gets to go higher than that of any country’s currency per time, thereby making it even more useful, valuable and promising to people.
Cryptocurrencies have their place and how they are stored or kept. These currencies as owned by a user are saved with an e address in a wallet. Different users have different particular addresses assigned to their wallets. Once a user loses the address of his wallet or the keys, usually a password, the money stored in the wallet is at risk.
In the digital industry, there are a set of people specialized in the skill and practice of “hacking”. Hacking is a skill that has to do with breaking into computer programs illegally, sometimes for fun, other times to steal useful information.
When hackers successfully break into a computer program, they get access to vital information. Despite having its advantages like a generally cheap traditional electronic transaction fee, lesser barriers and costs for transactions, difficulty for government retribution, self-interest and self-policy system and a robust privacy protection program, the cryptocurrency still has a hole where harm can penetrate.
Since the cryptocurrency is kept and ran over links and addresses as it is digitally run, It gives room for hackers to have access to it.
What is Dusting attack?
In its own terms, dusting attack is a planned act and strategy done by hackers, to break into the privacy and wallets of different cryptocurrency users at once, having access to all the money in their wallets. Dusting attack is an act that involves the distribution of the smallest amounts of these different currencies into different wallets and addresses.
According to the Binance Academy, the term dusting attack refers to a relatively new kind of malicious theft activity, in which hackers and scammers send tiny amounts of crypto to wallets in an attempt to deanonymize their owners. The amounts shared across cryptocurrency users is so small that the owners or users of these wallets do not take note of the changes or increase that occur in their wallets.
This activity is a collective and strategic effort of attackers, done in order to get a trace of the owners of these wallets and make both the company owners of the cryptocurrency or digital cash and the users completely anonymous. This activity is made possible first because of the cryptocurrency increase sent to each wallet address.
What is Blockchain?
In cryptocurrency, there is a master ledger with a finite number of records that monitors transactions and keeps the history of transactions of users called the blockchain. Over time, the number of transactions the block chain records increases. It validates and stores ownership of units as transacted by users of a currency. In Cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, the smallest amount or unit of the currency is called “dust”.
Dust is an amount of money or crypto that is so small that even addition or subtraction of it in a user’s wallet is not even noticed. In crypto currency language, dust is also the name used to refer to amounts of money that happen to be hanging after a transaction has occurred by users. In Bitcoin, a lower transaction output is also referred to as dust. In other words, when there is a dust attack, the effect is told on these smallest units of money in a user’s wallet.
How Dusting attack is done
Having studied and noticed that users of crypto currencies pay little or no attention to these amounts of money called dust, hackers have leveraged this to dust a large number of crypto currency user’s address, by sending small units of these currencies to their wallets.
After a massive split has been done among users of different wallets and addresses, the hackers take on the next step or move to link and identify what wallets belong to the same crypto. The end goal or essence of this entire sweep is to operate in a cyber-extortion, upon users of different crypto currency users.
The moment a hacker or an attacker successfully breaks into a user’s wallet by sending “dusts” to a wallet, the attacker waits for a wallet owner to spend or make transactions with his cryptocurrencies, alongside the amount of dusts sent to the wallet. Once a user spends the dusts inclusive, the attacker then has a full access to deanonymize a wallet owner.
The next thing a hacker does after having such access is to track all wallet addresses, which also includes automatically generated wallet addresses linked to an account. This way, future wallets which will be linked to a wallet broken into are also at risk or have already been hacked into.
Example of Dusting attack
The first-ever reported dust attack is said to have happened in the year 2018 the Samourai wallet brought to the notice of its users via their social media handle, warning that if they had received a very small amount of BTC in their wallets unexpectedly, they might be a target of a “dusting attack”, designed to deanonymise them by linking several accounts or wallet inputs together.
They were warned to not spend anything from their wallets at the said time. This was a large scale dust attack. In this case, the attackers of these users reportedly gave a response to the public warning saying “The person who was behind the dusting attack is the owner of a mining pool which is based outside of Russia.
He stated that his original intention was to use that medium to advertise his mining pool to the users of the Litecoin. It was unclear whether the attacker had alternative intentions as regards the dusting attack, which led to the birth of fear in the community of Litecoin users.
It is also said that since a dusting attack is a strategic and collective effort of different hackers or attackers, one cannot tell whether a first attacker is only providing access for a second hacker to complete a mission. That is, the mining pool owner may not have been the one to collect data but might just have given access to another hacker for operation and collection on a later date when programmers or the company owners have paid less attention to a previous attack.
On the 10th of August, the Binance and Litecoin community brought to the notice of the public and their users, especially that they had noticed a form of “dusting attack” in the system by hackers, endangering the digital assets of their users and the community at large.
The company made this known via their Twitter handle, reporting exactly: “We became aware of the dusting attack on Saturday morning when one of our binance angels had received a small amount of LTC into their litecoin wallet”. It was reported by the co-founder of block chain data that a number of about 50 users of litecoin had been affected. The founder equally reported that a speculation of close to 300,000 wallet addresses had been affected by the said dust attack at that time.
Dusting as a tool
Other times as the case may be, dusting as a term is used as a marketing tool or agent to create awareness and advertise services or a product. In doing this, blockchain as a system is used on a social media platform, users of wallets get to receive a relatively small amount of dust, (depending on the company provider), alongside a message stating exactly what these services are.
A perfect example of this instance was in October 2018, when Bestmixer.io, a cryptocurrency service company majoring in anonymizing cryptocurrencies used dusting as a tool for promotion of their services. In that month, users of Bitcoin began receiving an amount of dusts from the above named company, alongside a promotional message describing the services they offer. This medium was used as an effective method to target potential users at a marginal cost.
Apart from using dusting attack as a threat for cryptocurrency users and as a promotional tool, it can also be used as a strategy or tool to fight Anti-money laundry vices that tend to stand against law enforcement regulators. Here, criminals engage in illegal transactions, sending algorithms on an unattainable chase.
How to prevent Dusting attack
Though the digital currency community has proven to have a high level of security for users of different cryptocurrencies, it is still proven with facts that attack by hackers on the community is however inevitable.
Since users can not completely be shielded from this threat called the dust attack, the best method or form of security users can get is to first keep strict monitors on transactions that take place via their wallets, the increases and subtractions that tend to happen from time to time.
When this is closely monitored, a user can detect when there is an addition to his digital assets, even when he has not been involved in a transaction. If there is an increase without a transaction no matter how small, the best thing to do is exactly what the Samurai wallet warned its users, which happened to provide its users with the “do not spend” feature created on the platform for users.
This feature was able to identify really small unknown and untraceable deposits made in their wallets. When identified, it is then separated from the traceable assets and fixed in a wallet where it cannot be used by the owner of a particular wallet.
In conclusion, since dusting attack is usually done against users of individual wallets, users are advised to keep track of incoming funds at all times. A wallet address is also advised to be used just once.
When this is done or practised, the chances of tracing a wallet are slim, thereby increasing the protection level of a wallet and its owner. Users of cryptocurrency are also advised to have a VPN and an installed antivirus application in their devices where their wallet is kept and transactions take place. These make breaking in difficult for attackers.