Millions may be missing in Bitcoin heist


The price of the cryptocurrency in the Southern African nation jumped as high as US$13,499, almost double the rate at which it trades in international markets, according to prices cited on Golix

A MAJOR bitcoin theft from a cryptocurrency-mining service called NiceHash has prompted it to shut down for at least 24 hours.

The hack was disclosed on NiceHash’s Facebook page.

“We are working to verify the precise number of [bitcoin] taken,” NiceHash said.

The hack and other trading bottlenecks haven’t stopped bitcoin’s furious rally, which surged through US$14,000 Thursday morning in Asia for the first time, according to research site CoinDesk.

Bitcoin, which has surged about 40% in the past week, has now risen more than 14-fold so far this year, attracting a slew of new mainstream investors who have piled in as the digital currency has surged.

A wallet address, which stores bitcoin, showed that about 4,736.42 of the digital currency had been stolen, according to CoinDesk. At US$14,000 apiece, they would be worth about US$66mil. A company executive wasn’t immediately available to comment and confirm that amount.

NiceHash, which markets itself as the largest crypto-mining marketplace, said it is investigating the breach and co-operating with authorities as it seeks to restore the service “with the highest security measures at the earliest opportunity.”

Bitcoin, once a curiosity for techies, is now attracting small-time investors eager to get in on one of the year’s best-performing assets. Three exchanges are set to offer futures contracts on bitcoin, another step toward building a traditional market around the stateless digital currency.

The price of bitcoin crossed US$13,000 on Wednesday, mere hours after breaching US$12,000 for the first time and just a week after it first broke above US$11,000.

NiceHash, based in Slovenia, matches people in need of computer-processing power to mine cryptocurrencies with people who have power to spare. Payment is made in bitcoin. The company advised users to change their passwords.

“We are truly sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused and are committing every resource towards solving this issue as soon as possible,” NiceHash said.

Security has been an issue with bitcoin for years. One of the best-known cautionary tales is that of Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest bitcoin exchange. It collapsed and filed for bankruptcy protection after losing virtual currency valued at hundreds of millions of dollars in 2014. - WSJ

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