The Bitcoin cryptocurrency has exploded in popularity over the last few years, pushing its value to thousands of dollars per unit. There’s no regulation or government backing for Bitcoin, so it’s also a favorite target for hackers. Users of one Bitcoin mining website are learning that the hard way today as NiceHash announces a sophisticated cyberattack robbed it of more than 4,000 Bitcoins with a value of more than $70 million.
Most of the the Bitcoin hacks we hear about are aimed at exchanges where people buy, sell, and store their digital currency. The Slovenia-based NiceHash is a cryptocurrency mining collective. It allows users to lease processing time on their hardware to people who want to mine digital currency. Mining Bitcoin currently requires vast amounts of processing power, but there are newer currencies that can be effectively mined on consumer GPUs and CPUs. The users of NiceHash buy and sell processing time for Bitcoin.
The wealth of Bitcoin stored by NiceHash from all those transactions is now gone, siphoned off by unknown attackers who gained access to the site’s systems yesterday. The take from the heist was 4,736.42 BTC, worth more than $57 million at the time. Since the Blockchain that tracks Bitcoin transactions is public, you can see all that digital cash sitting there in a wallet.
The value of the stolen coins had gone up since they were taken and are now worth more than $70 million. Bitcoin enthusiasts will undoubtedly continue watching the wallet that received the stolen coins for movement. The thieves will probably try to split the funds up and run it through other wallets to obscure the source before cashing out.
The wallet holding the stolen coins.NiceHash has suspended operations for 24 hours as it works with police and tries to put the pieces back together. It has issued a statement recommending users change their passwords, though it’s not clear that had anything to do with the hack. Even if the attackers left some leads for police, the Bitcoins are gone and there’s no way to recover them without the cooperation of whoever is in control of that wallet.
Bitcoin’s value has been on a steep increase in recent weeks, reaching more than $17,000 per unit on Thursday. As long as the value of Bitcoin keeps increasing, so too will the likelihood of serious breaches like this. These sites wouldn’t have been at great risk a year or two ago, but now they’re suddenly holding assets worth many millions of dollars without the security apparatus necessary to protect such prizes.