TOKYO – The frenzy that surrounded Bitcoin widened further on Thursday when the virtual currency surpassed $ 15,000 for the first time, just a few days before it began trading on major US stock exchanges.
At the same time, there are new concerns about the security of bitcoin and other virtual currencies after NiceHash, a company that extracts bitcoins on behalf of customers, said it is investigating a breach that could have resulted in the theft of bitcoin. valued at around $ 70. million.
The research company Coindesk said that a wallet address to which NiceHash users refer indicates that some 4,700 bitcoins had been stolen. NiceHash said it will stop working for 24 hours while verifying how many bitcoins were taken. Wallet is a nickname for an online account.
There was no immediate response from NiceHash to an email request for more details.
"The incident has been reported to the relevant authorities and the police authorities and we are cooperating with them urgently," he said. The statement urged users to change their passwords online.
Slovenian police are investigating the case together with authorities from other states, said spokesman Bostjan Lindav, without providing details.
The attack occurred just as the trading community prepares for bitcoin to start operating in two established US exchanges. Bitcoin futures will begin trading at the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Sunday night and on rival CME Group platforms later in the month.
That has increased the feeling among some investors that bitcoin is gaining legitimacy after several countries, such as China, tried to stifle the virtual currency.
The price of bitcoin has increased in the last year, especially in recent weeks. On Thursday it rose to more than $ 15,000, up to $ 1,300 in less than a day, according to Coindesk. Earlier this year, a bitcoin was worth less than $ 1,000.
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.
Ali Zerdin in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Carlo Piovano in London contributed to this story.
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