Bitcoin worth millions stolen by hackers

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

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.


Coronavirus could hurt Dubai’s tourism, raises Oman risks: S&P

Updated 17 February 2020

Coronavirus could hurt Dubai’s tourism, raises Oman risks: S&P

  • ‘Virus-related travel restrictions, if not lifted as we expect, could weigh on the GCC’s hospitality industry, but more so in Dubai’
  • Oman’s economic downside risks were higher this year because of weaker oil demand and its exposure to China

DUBAI: Dubai’s hospitality industry faces the biggest risk in the Gulf region from travel restrictions triggered by the coronavirus outbreak, analysts at ratings agency S&P Global said on Monday.
All members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait — stand to suffer from the travel restrictions, but the business hub of Dubai could see the biggest impact, they said.
“Virus-related travel restrictions, if not lifted as we expect, could weigh on the GCC’s hospitality industry, but more so in Dubai, which received almost 1 million visitors from China in 2019,” the agency said.
Mohamed Damak, senior director, S&P Middle East & Africa, financial institutions, said there will certainly be an impact on visitors to the region, investments and potentially commodity prices if the virus is not contained by March and travel restrictions are not lifted.
In such a scenario the number of visitors expected to attend Dubai Expo 2020 will also drop, S&P said. Dubai hopes to attract 11 million foreign visitors for the six-month event that begins in October.
The virus has already killed more than 1,700 people and infected more than 70,000 and is yet to show convincing signs of peaking, with more than 2,048 new cases reported on Monday.
There have been nine confirmed cases of people diagnosed with the new coronavirus in the UAE. Most of those infected have been Chinese nationals.
Bankers attending a trade finance event in Dubai on Monday said coronavirus had not yet impacted trade flows in the Gulf but that corporates were starting to assess contingency plans in case Chinese exports are limited further over the coming months.
One local banker said banks had started seeing delays in documentation management for goods shipped from China to the UAE.
S&P analyst Zahabia Gupta said Oman’s economic downside risks were higher this year because of weaker oil demand and its exposure to China.
About 45 percent of Omani exports, mostly oil, go to China, making it the most exposed of the Gulf Arab states to developments in that country, said S&P. It forecast economic growth for Oman this year of 2.2 percent, up from an estimated 0.9 percent in 2019.
Fiscal deficits in the region will rise next year because of expected higher spending, lower oil prices and weak growth, Gupta said.
This year S&P expects oil prices to be around $60 a barrel and next year $55 a barrel.