How to Protect Yourself From a Dusting Attack?
To compromise the privacy of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency users, hackers and scammers are now resorting to a novel form of malicious activity known as a dusting attack. In this kind of attack, a small number of coins is sent to the users' wallets, and their transactional activities are monitored closely by the attackers. By performing a combined analysis of multiple wallet addresses, hackers and scammers attempt to uncover the identity of the person or company behind each wallet. This technique allows them to deanonymize the users and potentially gain access to sensitive information.
In the world of cryptocurrencies, "dust" refers to a small number of coins or tokens that users usually don't take notice of. For example, in Bitcoin, dust can be as little as a couple of hundred satoshis, which is the smallest unit of BTC (0.00000001 BTC).
Cryptocurrency exchanges use the term dust to describe small amounts of coins left on users' accounts after a trade. Although these balances cannot be traded, some exchanges allow users to convert them to a primary token chosen by the exchange.
Bitcoin has no official definition for dust, as different software implementations or clients may set varying thresholds. Bitcoin Core defines dust as transaction outputs that are smaller than transaction fees, which led to the development of the dust limit.
The dust limit is determined by input and output size, resulting in a limit of 546 satoshis for regular Bitcoin transactions (non-SegWit) and 294 satoshis for native SegWit transactions. Any regular transaction equal to or less than 546 satoshis is considered spam and may be rejected by validating nodes.
Dusting attacks involve sending tiny amounts of cryptocurrencies to wallet addresses, which most users don't bother with. Cybercriminals use these attacks to link wallet addresses and identify their owners through combined analysis. This is done to launch phishing attacks or cyber-extortion threats against individuals or companies.
Initially performed on Bitcoin, these attacks can also happen with other cryptocurrencies as they operate on a public blockchain. In 2018, Samourai Wallet detected that some of their users were under dusting attacks and warned them about the same via Twitter. The company also implemented a real-time alert for dust tracking and a "Do Not Spend" feature that allows users to mark suspicious funds to prevent them from being used in future transactions.
Dusting attacks can be thwarted if the funds are not moved because attackers need the funds to make the connection they require to "deanonymize" the wallets. However, some dusting attacks are currently above the dust limit of 546 satoshis and range from 1,000 to 5,000 satoshis. Several wallets can automatically report suspicious transactions to their users to ensure they are aware of the risks.
Pseudonymity of Bitcoin
Although anyone can join the Bitcoin network and set up a wallet without sharing personal information, the anonymity of the cryptocurrency is not complete. Bitcoin transactions are public, but tracing the identity behind each address or transaction can be difficult. Peer-to-peer transactions are more likely to remain anonymous, but using crypto exchanges involves KYC verification processes that collect personal data, which increases the risk of being deanonymized. To protect their privacy, users should create a new Bitcoin address for every new transaction or payment request.
Despite misconceptions about Bitcoin's anonymity, it is not truly anonymous. Blockchain analyses by companies, research labs, and government agencies are being conducted in attempts to deanonymize blockchain networks. In addition to dusting attacks, this means that Bitcoin transactions are not fully private or secure.
Cryptocurrency wallets can be a major concern for holders due to their vulnerability to hacking and theft. Since personal information isn't required when setting up a wallet or address, it's difficult to prove theft if someone gains access to your coins. As holders act as their bank, there is little recourse if a wallet is hacked or private keys are lost.
Privacy and security are becoming increasingly important for cryptocurrency traders and investors, with attacks such as dusting and deanonymizing posing a significant threat. Other security concerns in the cryptocurrency space include Cryptojacking, Ransomware, and Phishing. To increase security, it's recommended to install trustworthy antivirus software on all devices, encrypt wallets, and store keys in encrypted folders.