Updated December 7, 2017, 12:24 pm EST
Bitcoin reached a record price of more than $ 16,000, with the virtual currency increasing more than $ 4,000 in 36 hours. That puts the value of the entire cryptocurrency market at more than $ 400 billion, according to Coinmarketcap.com.
The currency peaked at $ 16,550 around noon on Thursday before falling to just over $ 15,000. Some exchanges showed that bitcoin reached a maximum of $ 19,000 at its best, with large price disparities between exchanges.
At the same time, a bitcoin mining company in Slovenia has been hacked by the possible theft of tens of millions of dollars, just days before the virtual currency starts trading on the main US stock exchanges. NiceHash, a company that operates bitcoins on behalf of customers, said it is investigating a security breach and will stop operating for 24 hours while verifying how many bitcoins were taken.
The research company Coindesk said that a wallet address referred by NiceHash users indicate that some 4,700 bitcoins have been stolen. At Thursday's record price of around $ 16,200, that puts the value at more than $ 76 million.
There was no immediate response from NiceHash to an email request for more details.
"The incident has been reported to the relevant authorities and laws applying and we are cooperating with them as a matter of urgency," he said. The statement urged users to change their passwords online.
Slovenian police are investigating the case along with authorities from other states, said spokesman Bostjan Lindav, without providing details.
The trick will highlight the safety of bitcoin as the business community prepares for the currency to start trading on two established US exchanges. Bitcoin futures will start trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Sunday night and on the rival platforms of CME Group at the end of the month.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been transformed from an esoteric idea born on the Internet into the mainstream of the financial world with market valuations that eclipse some publicly traded corporations, including Goldman Sachs (GS). Bitcoin prices were $ 960 at the beginning of the year. In 2010, they were 8 cents.
That has increased the sense among some investors that bitcoin is gaining legitimacy after several countries, such as China, that tried to stifle the virtual currency.
Bitcoin is the most popular virtual currency in the world. These currencies are not linked to a bank or government and allow users to spend money anonymously. Basically they are lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they are marketed.
A debate is infuriating over the merits of such coins. Some say they serve simply to facilitate money laundering and illicit and anonymous payments. Others say that they can be useful payment methods, as in crisis situations where national currencies have collapsed.
Bitcoin miners and other virtual currencies help keep systems honest by having their computers maintain a global record of transactions. That prevents cheaters from spending the same digital currency twice.
Online security is a vital concern for such deals.
In Japan, after the failure of a bitcoin exchange called Mt. Gox, new laws were enacted to regulate bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Monte Gox closed in February 2014, saying it had lost about 850,000 bitcoins, possibly hackers.
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