Since its creation in 2009/10 bitcoin crypto currency has always had a kind of unreal story. The concept of a globally exchanged currency without a nation as a sponsor or guarantor which is traded by person to person or company to company transactions without a banking system regulator was unreal until it happened.
Recently the concept and pricing has become part of the general news in Canada and around the world getting coverage in major newspapers, over the air media and online.genre of crypto currencies has become a big topic with bitcoin being the most well known or heard of example.
Wikipedia describes bitcoin like this:
Bitcoin is a and worldwide payment system.:3 It is the first decentralized digital currency – the system works without a central repository or single administrator.:1 The network is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly through the use of cryptography, without an intermediary.:4 These transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin was invented by an unknown person or group of people under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009.
When it all started bitcoins were the realm of computer nerds and others who liked to 'play' at new tech inventions. Using old computers or embedding code into working systems but running it in the back ground when cpu time was available they started to seek to learn more and create the new currency. Bitcoins are created as a reward for work in a complex algorithmic computation process which itself is designed to protect the integrity of the system.
According to information disseminated there is an absolute limit of the number of bitcoins that can be created within the system and it is partially this restriction which has led to rapid advances in the quoted values per bitcoin.
Impact on IT security
Unfortunately, the need for massive amounts of computing power to create or qualify for bitcoins has led to a potential for unscrupulous means for accessing computing power to develop. When bitcoins had a value of a few dollars or even a hundred or so there was no real attraction for hackers to create the tools or means to capture processing from consumer or business devices.
With the rapid uptick in value of bitcoins, now having reached beyond $10,000 US at times there is a real incentive to mine for coins any way you can. Essentially what can happen as identified in some of the recent articles is crypto jacking code is entered into websites which are frequently accessed by consumers and then if a hole is exploited to the computer accessing the site a form of malware is inserted which then uses that device in the background to join a crypto mining network.
Of course this is done in a way to attempt to make it as unobtrusive as possible since the idea is to 'enlist' the affected computer to perform work routinely over time. The affect can mean slower processing by the affected computer, increased electricity bills as it runs actively even when normal work is not being performed (say overnight) and a gradual slowing of the performance of the computer.
According to news reports major corporate sites in Canada have been hit with the code and there are thousands of unwitting computer users who may have the malware running on their computers. This process of malware high jacking has just added one more area of caution that all public network users and corporate IT specialists have to be careful of. It is one more check which needs to be done to keep your online activities safe and problem free.
Bitcoin is no longer the only game in crypto currencies making the development even more confusing and challenging to those who have not done their homework in detail. The attraction of the alternative coins is they may be easier to generate and have not as yet attractive the astronomic values which take them out of the reach of the average person interested.
High risk and speculative
As bitcoins have become more costly and publicly known there are now cypto currency exchanges public briefing sessions being created to teach people about the digital currency world and facilitate their potential as investment choices. Understanding what is real and what is not is a challenge in this field and getting your information from solid proven sources before jumping in either by buying in with cash or committing funds to acquire resources to join the `mining` field.
As always this is a place for buyer be wary, but definitely at a super high level of caution.