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14 May 2012, 15:05

Bitcoinica Bitcoin site breached

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Bitcoin logo During an attack on the Bitcoinica Bitcoin site, hackers managed to steal 18,547 virtual currency coins – valued at approximately £55,000. The operators have taken their site offline for the time being. Bitcoinica says that no bitcoins were stolen from users during the incident; apparently, the intruders only accessed the organisation's accounts.

However, the criminals were also able to access the entire database including the user data that is stored in it. The database contains usernames, email addresses and transaction details – data that can be used for attacks such as targeted phishing campaigns. The attackers were also able to access the password hashes. Bitcoinica said that the hashes are well protected using methods such as salting. However, the operators did recommend that anyone who uses the same password to log into other web services should change it. According to Bitcoinica, documents that are used to verify users' identities are encrypted separately and stored on a different server, and were therefore not affected.

Only two months ago, Bitcoins worth about £112,100 (€140,000) were stolen from Bitcoinica when attackers hacked into the computers of the Linode cloud service. Bitcoin is a decentralised virtual non-government currency that is generated collectively by a network using a cryptographic algorithm. As anonymity is part of this currency's concept, stealing a digital wallet has the same effect as losing a physical wallet: the money is lost.

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