June 6, 2023

An invisible threat: what is a "crypto dust attack" and how to deal with it

Article reading time:
4 min.

An invisible threat: what is a "crypto dust attack" and how to deal with it

Most owners of BTC and other crypto-currencies will certainly not be able to say how much they have in stock with an accuracy of “satoshi”. That is why they can become a victim of scammers.

What is crypto dust

“Crypto dust” is a small amount of cryptocurrency that can be sent in bulk to different wallets. In this case, the goals on the part of the sender can be pursued completely different.

In general, "dust" is the amountcryptocurrencies equal to or less than the transaction fee. So, the smallest unit of bitcoin is one satoshi - 0.00000001 BTC. Therefore, even 0.00000500 bitcoin today is “dust”.

Often it settles on the stock exchanges. It cannot be traded.Thus, she is in limbo. It is often used for absolutely peaceful purposes - for example, sending “dust” to wallets is done for advertising purposes in order to attract more people to cryptocurrency or another project.

However, so-called "dust attacks" have proliferated in recent times. But they just carry a certain threat.

What is a dust attack

“Dust attack” is the distribution of crypto dust toa large number of addresses from malefactors. As a rule, this is expressed in the fact that scammers want to track the identity of the owner of the wallet. How does this happen?

The blockchain itself does not require anypersonal data. But the problem is that transactions in it are visible to everyone. Thus, it is possible to track which specific operations and to what extent were carried out from a particular address.

Dust attack is not a direct way to stealcryptocurrency. By giving you crypto dust, scammers are only trying to trace who you are through a series of your transactions. For the most part, users will not pay attention to millionths.

In general, dust attack can occur in manyblockchains, not just Bitcoin. With its help, fraudsters try to gain access to the personal data of individuals and legal entities. After that, they begin to use various methods to extract their benefits: threats, extortion, blackmail, and so on.

When is crypto dust useful?

Dust attacks are just one way to exploit crypto dust. For the most part, it is absolutely harmless, and can even be beneficial.

For example, developers can send out dust,to check the operation of your hardware or updates. It can also be distributed to wallets if they need to run a test to eliminate the threat of a hacker attack or other vulnerability.

Traders can profit in the form of dust.After all, each transaction is determined by the price for which you bought and for which you sold. Sometimes crypto exchanges offer to exchange crypto dust for their tokens or some other cryptocurrency.

Also, governments of countries can use dust attacks to track potential criminals, terrorists and others.

Working principle of dust attack

The first thing scammers count on isinattention of people to trifles. Few people will notice that some shares of the cryptocurrency suddenly appeared on the account. The next thing the scammers are counting on is that the recipient of the crypto dust will start making transactions with it as if nothing had happened. If this does not happen, then the whole idea turns out to be unprofitable.

When the victim of a dust attack will forwardcrypto-currency to a centralized platform, he will not notice how he will send crypto-dust along with it. This is an important point, since it is CEXs that request a lot of personal data from customers. It is to them that scammers try to get close by sending crypto dust.

The most vulnerable to dust attacks arecryptocurrencies that use the unspent transaction balance (UTXO) model. This is because they create a new address for every change from a transaction.

What should be done to avoid becoming a victim of a dust attack?

Ways to protect against dust attack

The most important thing you should remember:the likelihood that you will fall for the bait of a scammer is not so great. Cryptocurrency holders, however, usually do not have a large amount of it. And for the sent dust, the attackers will still have to pay transaction fees, which have only grown in recent years in the same Bitcoin.

If transactions are not made, then tracknothing is possible. If you are still actively making transfers, then you should take precautionary measures. In general, there are a whole lot of them. But most of them require special education. However, there are also quite simple ones:

  • use tools that increase your anonymity on the network (of course, if it is legal in your country);

  • use hierarchically deterministic wallets that will create new addresses for each subsequent transaction, which will create additional difficulties for fraudsters;

  • use programs that immediately convert crypto dust into native tokens.

  • If you follow these simple steps, your chances of becoming a victim of a dust attack will be greatly reduced.