FBI Launches Probe Into "Criminal Violations" By Mt.Gox
It does not appear that things are getting any better for the virtual currency exchange named after "Magic: The Gathering."
- *FBI SAID TO BE PROBING POSSIBLE CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS BY MT. GOX
- *U.S. SAID TO REQUEST DOCUMENTS FROM BITCOIN SERVICE PROVIDERS
- *MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY SAID TO BE REVIEWING MT. GOX SHUTDOWN
No real reaction yet in price across Bitcoin exchanges.
As Bloomberg reports,
The office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are probing possible criminal violations tied to the shutdown of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest exchange for digital currency transactions, two people familiar with the matter said.
Bharara’s office has requested documents from businesses that provide Bitcoin services and the FBI is reviewing the matter, said the people, who requested anonymity because the matter isn’t public. One of the people said that the matter is in its preliminary stages and isn’t yet a formal investigation.
How did the once-largest Bitcoin exchange lose hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of the digital currency?
Two words: transaction malleability. A hacker can tinker with the code that makes a Bitcoin transaction happen, so that it looks like it didn’t go through. The person who was supposed to receive a payment then asks again and, in Mt. Gox’s case, is paid again automatically. Mt. Gox has acknowledged this was happening. It seems that someone has been slowly bleeding it for months, leaving it without the funds to pay out legitimate withdrawals. But with the company being pretty tight-lipped about it for now, that’s only the best theory.
Was this a shot from the blue?
Not quite. Mt. Gox has been having problems for months, and people have been complaining about not being able to get their money out of the system since late last year. The company halted withdrawals altogether in early February. So while the number of lost Bitcoins is striking, many people have seen the failure of Mt. Gox as imminent for a while.
Where did the lost Bitcoins go?
In theory, Mt. Gox could begin to track their path by identifying the fraudulent transactions and searching for the wallets the coins ended up in. But no one is putting much faith in the accounting expertise over there at the moment. In any case, many of the tainted coins have likely moved beyond their initial destinations. If there really has been a slow leak from Mt. Gox for a long time, then the coins could have spread to the ends of the earth by now. One thing is certain: They are probably all over the place, just based on the sheer number of coins alleged to have been stolen. They’d amount to about 6 percent of the Bitcoins in existence.
Is this a security problem with Bitcoin itself?
When Mt. Gox described the issue as a bug in the Bitcoin protocol, people didn’t appreciate it. The technical issue at the root of Mt. Gox’s problem didn’t just crop up recently; it seems that Mt. Gox was left vulnerable because it didn’t protect itself against the issue.
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