Bitcoin hit by denial of service attacks as regulators prepare clampdown

Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:30pm EST
 
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By Emily Flitter and Douwe Miedema

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bitcoin is being hit by attacks from unknown computer hackers who are sending "mutated" lines of code into the program that runs the virtual currency, a spokeswoman from its main trade organization said in a statement on Tuesday.

The attacks are responsible for problems experienced by two bitcoin exchanges that caused them to temporarily halt withdrawals by customers who stored bitcoins in digital wallets provided by the exchanges, the Bitcoin Foundation said in a statement.

"This is a denial-of-service attack," said the spokeswoman, Jinyoung Lee Englund. "Whoever is doing this is not stealing coins, but is succeeding in preventing some transactions from confirming. It's important to note that DoS attacks do not affect people's bitcoin wallets or funds."

Englund said a team of core software developers who focus on bitcoin were working to fix the problem, but until it was solved some users would not be able to do anything with their bitcoins, and the affected bitcoins would appear to be "tied up" in transactions.

"Only users who make multiple transactions in a short period of time will be affected," she said.

On Tuesday, Slovenia-based Bitstamp became the second major bitcoin exchange to halt customer withdrawals in the past several days, citing "inconsistent results", and blaming a denial-of-service attack.

That was a day after Mt. Gox, the best-known digital marketplace operator, said a halt on withdrawals would continue indefinitely. Traders reacted to the halt by sending the value of bitcoin to its lowest in nearly two months.

The price of bitcoin, which has gained wider acceptance in recent months, varied dramatically from one exchange to another. On Tuesday, it was quoted at $645 per coin on Bitstamp's exchange, down 6 percent on the day.   Continued...

 
A chain of block erupters used for Bitcoin mining is pictured at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, California October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam