Bitcoin worth millions stolen by hackers

Bitcoin is due to start trading on major US exchanges within days. (AP)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Bitcoin worth millions stolen by hackers

TOKYO: A bitcoin mining company in Slovenia has been hacked for the possible theft of tens of millions of dollars, just days before the virtual currency, which hit a record above $15,000 on Thursday, is due to start trading on major US exchanges.
NiceHash, a company that mines bitcoins on behalf of customers, said it is investigating a security breach and will stop operating for 24 hours while it verifies how many bitcoins were taken.
Research company Coindesk said that a wallet address referred to by NiceHash users indicates that about 4,700 bitcoins had been stolen. At Thursday’s record price of about $15,000, that puts the value at more than $70 ­million.
There was no immediate response from NiceHash to an emailed request for more details.
“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.
Slovenian police are investigating the case together with authorities in other states, spokesman Bostjan Lindav said, without providing details.
The hack will put a spotlight on the security of bitcoin just as the trading community prepares for the currency to start trading on two established US exchanges. Futures for bitcoin will start trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Sunday evening and on crosstown rival CME Group’s platforms later in the month.
That has increased the sense among some investors that bitcoin is gaining in mainstream legitimacy after several countries, like China, tried to stifle the virtual currency.
As a result, the price of bitcoin has jumped in the past year, particularly so in recent weeks. On Thursday it surged to more than $15,000, up $1,300 in less than a day, according to Coindesk. At the start of the year, one bitcoin was worth less than $1,000.
Bitcoin is the world’s most popular virtual 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.
A debate is raging on the merits of such currencies. Some say they serve merely to facilitate money laundering and illicit, anonymous payments. Others say they can be helpful methods of payment, such as in crisis situations where national currencies have collapsed.
Miners of bitcoins and other virtual currencies help keep the systems honest by having their computers record a global running tally of transactions. That prevents cheaters from spending the same digital coin twice.
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 bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Mt. Gox shut down in February 2014, saying it lost about 850,000 bitcoins, possibly to hackers.


India cuts sales tax across sectors to ease pain of traders and consumers

Updated 21 July 2018
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India cuts sales tax across sectors to ease pain of traders and consumers

MUMBAI: India slashed the sales tax rate on over 50 products on Saturday in a move aimed at appealing to traders and the middle classes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government eyes next year’s elections.
Modi is seeking a second term in 2019 amid voter frustration over the abrupt implementation of a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) a year ago that has hit businesses and general public hard.
The GST council, headed by interim finance minister Piyush Goyal, agreed to lower the indirect tax slab on products such as paints, leather goods, bamboo flooring, stoves, televisions and washing machines from the highest rate of 28 percent to mostly 18 percent.
“The exercise was to ensure simplification and rationalization of GST and extend relief to the common man,” Goyal told a news conference in New Delhi on Saturday evening.
The tax rate on ethanol blended with petrol, footwear costing up to 1,000 rupees and fertilizer grade phosphoric acid has been cut to from 12 to 5 percent, Goyal said.
The council cut taxes on sanitary pads and fortified baby milk to zero, Goyal said.
In a boost to mobile phone manufacturing and electric vehicles, the tax rate on lithium ion batteries was cut from 28 percent to 18 percent.
“The decision taken today will increase compliance and the revenue impact on total tax collections will be marginal,” said Goyal.
The revised tax rates will be applicable from July 27.
Revenue collections from GST are a crucial pillar of government’s plan to cut its fiscal deficit in the current year. India’s GST collection for the fiscal 2017/18 was 98 percent of the budgeted target.
“The broad level reductions in rates could lead to lower tax collections,” said M S Mani, partner at consulting firm Deloitte India.
However, the tax cut will lead to higher sales which could offset revenue losses, Mani added.
($1 = 68.7300 Indian rupees)