Illegal cybercrime profits total as much as $200 billion each year, according to an academic study into cybercriminals’ money laundering schemes.

Virtualization-based security firm Bromium announced some of the findings from its nine-month “Into the Web of Profit” study into how cybercriminal launder money online. The report revealed that cybercrime funds make up between 8 and 10 percent of illegal profits laundered across the world. Those figures place global ill-gotten proceeds at $80 billion to $200 billion annually.

Digital Currencies Driving Cybercrime Profits

Virtual currencies have become the primary tools threat actors use to launder money. They could play an even bigger role in future illicit transactions. According to the study, cybercriminals are increasingly using digital money to purchase real estate, with cryptocurrencies expected to account for 25 percent of total property sales in the next few years.

Even so, law enforcement is more intent on monitoring bitcoin, which is driving cybercriminals to look for alternatives, the study found. Some bad actors could turn to Litecoin, the second-most popular cryptocurrency on the Dark Web. Others are expected to embrace in-game currency and goods from “Grand Theft Auto V,” “Minecraft” and other computer games.

The Cybercrime Economy

Dr. Mike McGuire, senior lecturer in criminology at Surrey University in England, conducted the study under Bromium’s sponsorship. His research revealed that cybercrime is more than just a business.

“It’s like an economy which mirrors the legitimate economy,” said McGuire, as quoted by Dark Reading. “The problem here is the cyber economy and the legitimate economy is so intertwined that some laundering is going on in cyber, then back to the real world, then back to cyber.”

McGuire will present further findings from “Into the Web of Profit” during his speaker slot at the RSA Conference 2018 in San Francisco on April 20.

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