Bitcoin surpassed $ 17,000 on Thursday as the frenzy that surrounded the virtual currency increased just a few days before it began trading on major US stock exchanges. Bitcoin has earned more than $ 5,000 alone in the last two days.
At the same time, there are new concerns about the security of bitcoin and other virtual currencies after NiceHash, a company that exploits bitcoins on behalf of customers, said it is investigating a violation that could have resulted in the theft of approximately $ 70 million in bitcoin.
Coindesk research company 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.
At 8:15 a.m. Pacific time, bitcoin was valued at $ 17,482, according to Coinbase, the largest bitcoin exchange. (Shortly thereafter, the Coinbase website crashed in the middle of heavy traffic). Earlier this year, a bitcoin was worth less than $ 1,000.
The increase in the price and the NiceHash trick 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, like China, tried to quell 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 taking place on the merits of these currencies. 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, 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.
NiceHash did not respond to an email request for more details about its own violation.
"The incident has been reported to the relevant authorities and the application of the law and we are cooperating with them as a matter of urgency," he said in a statement, in which he also urged users to change their passwords.
Slovenian police are investigating the case together with authorities of other states, spokesman Bostjan Lindav said. Lindav did not provide details.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not linked to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. Coins are created by users who "mine" them by lending computing power to verify the transactions of other users. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins can also be bought and sold in bags with US dollars. UU And other currencies.
Is it a risky investment?
The value of bitcoins can oscillate sharply. Earlier this month, the value of Bitcoin fell 22% against the dollar in just three days.
Why bitcoins are popular
Bitcoins are basically digitally signed lines of computer code each time they travel from one owner to another. Transactions can be done anonymously, which makes the currency popular among libertarians and technology enthusiasts, speculators and criminals.
Is it really anonymous?
Yes, to some extent. Transactions and accounts can be tracked, but the owners of the account are not necessarily known. However, researchers may be able to track owners when bitcoins are converted to normal currency.
Who is using bitcoin?
Some companies have jumped on the bitcoin car in the midst of a flurry of media coverage. Overstock.com accepts payments in bitcoin, for example.
Still, its popularity is low compared to cash and cards, and many people and businesses will not accept bitcoins for payments. Some high-profile banking executives have spoken against bitcoin, with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon calling it "fraud."
How bitcoins are kept safe
The bitcoin network works by taking advantage of the greed of individuals for the collective good. The miners keep the system honest by using their computing power in a chain of blocks, a global account of all bitcoin transactions. The blockchain prevents the rogues from spending the same bitcoin twice, and the miners are compensated for their efforts with the occasional bitcoin. While the miners keep the chain of blocks secure, counterfeiting should not be a problem.
How did it get to be Bitcoin?
It's a mystery. Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by a person or group of people that operates under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin was adopted by a small group of enthusiasts. Nakamoto left the map as the bitcoin began to attract wide attention. But the defenders say that does not matter: the currency obeys its own internal logic.
Last year, an Australian businessman claimed to be the founder of bitcoin, only to say days later that he did not have "courage" to post proof that he is.