Bitcoin mining website loses tens of millions of dollars in bitcoins after hackers steal its 'wallet'

Bitcoin is surging past record highs, giving more and more incentive to steal bitcoin – and the value of any stolen coins is rapidly increasing

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 07 December 2017 10:04 GMT
What is Bitcoin and why is its price so high?

Tens of millions of dollars worth of bitcoin have been stolen as the cryptocurrency continues to surge above record high.

Slovenia-based bitcoin miner NiceHash provides a service where numerous people can group together and "mine" for the cryptocurrency. That process uses intense computing power to create new bitcoin – and so provide substantial sums of money to its users.

But it says that its security has been breached and that it's possible more than $60 million in bitcoin has been stolen. As the price of bitcoin continues to rise, the value of the stolen wallet will increase even more.

NiceHash says it had stopped operations for 24 hours and was working to verify how many bitcoins were taken.

There was no immediate response from NiceHash to an emailed request for more details. Unconfirmed reports said more than 4,000 bitcoins were missing valued at more than $60 million.

"The incident has been reported to the relevant authorities and law enforcement and we are cooperating with them as a matter of urgency," it said.

The statement urged users to change their online passwords.

Troubles with the website over the past day or so drew alarm and complaints, with many bitcoin owners posting panicked comments on NiceHash's social media accounts.

The price of bitcoin has surged to over $14,100.74, gaining $1,000 in less than a day, according to coindesk, a website that monitors the price. That compares with a value below $1,000 at the beginning of the year.

Bitcoin is the world's most popular digital currency. Such currencies are not tied to a bank or government and allow users to spend money anonymously. They are basically lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they are traded. Miners of bitcoins and other virtual currencies help keep the systems honest by putting computer power into a blockchain, a global running tally of every transaction that prevents cheaters from spending the same digital coin twice.

NiceHash is a cryptocurrency mining application that lends computer power to verify bitcoin users' transactions.

Online security is a vital concern for such dealings.

In Japan, following the failure of a bitcoin exchange called Mt. Gox, new laws were enacted to regulate bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. Mt. Gox shut down in February 2014, saying it lost about 850,000 bitcoins, possibly to hackers.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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