Cybercriminals are corrupt, lazy, and self-righteous, but they are imaginative in looking for new ways to rip you off. That’s why we are launching this special series, Scam Bucket , to keep you up to date on the latest trends in cybercrime.

The cryptocurrency world is filled with weird terms that only the insiders know about. One of those terms is “dust”. If you are new to the world of digital currency you need to know how dangerous it is.

When you purchase something with a cryptocurrency, there is always a remainder. The value of your digital coin can fluctuate wildly from minute to minute. Say your coin is worth $100. If the cost of what you are buying, including the transaction fees, is slightly less than $100, that remainder fraction of your coin becomes “dust”. It is virtually worthless. You can also find dust in public blockchains, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Dogecoin, among others.

Dust is measured in “Satoshis” or 100 millionths of a coin’s value. In our example above, $1 is worth one million Satoshis, so if you have 1000 satoshi’s you don’t have even one cent. The only course to take at that point is to combine all your collected dust to turn it into some semblance of value, but that takes some skill.

Where it get’s dicey

The dangerous part is when someone sends you a “gift” of their dust, usually in the form of an email. Hey, it wasn’t doing them any good. Maybe that gift brings you to a total amount of dust that might make it worthwhile. Right? Wrong. It’s called “dusting”, the latest iteration of “spearphishing,” the act of sending an email or text to a specific person to commit fraud.

Criminals target naive crypto owners as recipients of their “gifts” embedding malware that gives the criminals access to the victim’s wallets. They can drain the account and not leave a trace. Some experts we talked to believe this was how the FBI retrieved most of the Colonial Pipeline ransom. There has also been chatter on the dark web among criminals warning each other about dusting attacks.

SwissBorg, a Swiss blockchain-based wealth management platform for crypto holders, insures accounts against fraud and theft. It’s a good idea that should spread. In the meantime, just remember that there is no such thing as free crypto.

Lou Covey is the US Editor for Cyberprotection Magazine. In 50 years as a journalist he covered American politics, education, religious history, women’s fashion, music, marketing technology, renewable energy, semiconductors, avionics. He is currently focused on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. He published a book on renewable energy policy in 2020 and is writing a second one on technology aptitude. He hosts the Crucial Tech podcast.

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