If you’ve never encountered ransomware, consider yourself lucky. Ransomware is malware that completely locks down your computer and threatens to corrupt or destroy your files unless you pay a fine. In the past, there have been relatively simple workarounds to remove ransomware from your computer, but Ars Technica shares the stories of those who came face to face with CryptoLocker, an especially persistent piece of ransomware that demands affected users pay a $300 fee if they ever want to see their files again. More →
Buying and selling illegal drugs on the Internet using a virtual currency isn’t as fun as it used to be. The Associated Press, via NPR, reports that law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States have arrested eight more individuals who have connections to Silk Road, the now-shuttered online drug den that accepted digital currency Bitcoin as a form of payment. The AP says that “most if not all the arrests took place within a couple of days of last week’s capture of Silk Road’s alleged mastermind, Ross Ulbricht, in San Francisco,” which likely means that they have enough evidence to unravel the entire drug ring just from data they seized during the initial raid.
It’s a shame that Breaking Bad had to end before we could see what would have happened if a distributor had tried to pay Walt and Jesse using Bitcoins. CNN reports that federal officials have arrested Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road, the notorious Bitcoin-accepting Internet drug den. CNN says that Ulbricht has been indicted by federal prosecutors for narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized and shut down Silk Road completely. The FBI says that the website, which let users buy drugs, hire assassins and deal illegal firearms, generated annual revenue of around $1.3 billion.
Things have been very up-and-down for Bitcoin lately and the virtual currency’s road coud be getting even rockier now that the United States federal government is getting involved. IDG News reports that the U.S. District Court in Maryland this week order the seizure of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox’s funds because it allegedly “failed to register as a ‘money transmitting business’ in accordance with 18 U.S. Code 1960.” The court-issued warrant alleges that Mt. Gox owner Mark Karpeles denied that his firm exchanged currency or “transmitted funds based on instructions to customers” in a questionnaire supplied by Wells Fargo back in 2011. Wells Fargo issues such questionnaires to determine whether clients it works with need to register as currency traders with the U.S. Treasury Department.
Bitcoin is a good way for people to conduct business off the grid, but the free ride may soon come to an end. Everyone’s favorite virtual currency has been on quite a wild ride over the past few weeks. The mainstream media finally caught wind of Bitcoin and curious parties sent it skyrocketing to $220 before watching it plummet below $70 a few short days later. It has been quite a roller coaster, but all this attention may have caught the IRS’s eye, too — Forbes contributor Robert Wood noted in a recent column that the Treasury’s FinCEN already has rules pertaining to Bitcoin, and soon the IRS might as well. More →
For reasons that are likely attributable to excessive use of illicit substances, online Bitcoin-accepting drug den Silk Road thinks that police will jump at the chance to help it track down an alleged blackmailer who is threatening to shut the site down unless he gets paid a certain amount of money. The Telegraph reports that Silk Road has been under constant DDoS attacks from a person who calls himself “Lance G” and who has been “threatening to crash the site unless it fronted the surprisingly small amount of $5,000.” As a result, Silk Road is offering a $5,000 reward for any “information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever is behind this extortion attempt.” As The Telegraph points out, however, most law enforcement officials are unlikely to devote significant resources toward making sure that a hub for online drug dealing stays online.
Imagine a world where the Nasdaq, the Nikkei and the FTSE all failed within the span of a week and you have an idea how crazy the world of virtual currency trading has become. Wired reports that a new study from computer scientists Tyler Moore of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Nicolas Christin of Carnegie Mellon University has found that 45% of Bitcoin exchanges end up shutting their virtual doors while leaving their users’ money in limbo. However, this doesn’t mean that the Bitcoin exchanges that have survived so far are safe havens, since the study also shows that they’re under constant assault from cybercriminals who are working around the clock to hack users’ transactions. More →
If you thought the Bitcoin market was crazy before, just wait until traders get the ability to make leveraged bets on the virtual currency’s future price. From the what-could-possibly-go-wrong department, TechCrunch reports that New York-based startup Coinsetter has received $500,000 in seed funding to set up a Bitcoin trading platform that will allow for high-risk margin trades and short selling of Bitcoins. Coinsetter co-founder Jaron Lukasiewicz tells TechCrunch that the ability to make leveraged trades is vital to every major financial market and that giving owners the ability to trade Bitcoins in this way will help the virtual currency establish itself as a legitimate alternative to government-issued money.
Do skyrocketing Bitcoin prices mean that the virtual currency is in the midst of a speculative bubble? Don’t tell that to Reddit user anon_bitcoin_gambler, who claims to have invested his “entire retirement and savings” in Bitcoin. The user, who has so far refused to reveal his identity, says that he is “quite poor” at the moment but has “good credit” that has allowed him to receive “over $30,000 USD in credit card 0% balance transfer cash” that he has “slowly been investing in bitcoin for the past two months.” More →
Prices of virtual currency Bitcoin have been absolutely surging lately but one analyst thinks such a rapid rise is more indicative of a bubble than a genuine boom. ConvergEx Group Chief Market Strategist Nick Colas tells Business Insider that the reaction from his clients “has been pretty uniform: it must be a bubble.” Colas goes on to say that the price increase in Bitcoins has been ”too far, too fast, too new” and exhibits all the signs of a classic speculative bubble. Colas also notes that “it’s very hard to short Bitcoins, so there’s no real way to express that pessimistic point of view,” which means that the price of the virtual currency may continue to rise until it experiences a hard landing. The price of Bitcoins, which remained at under $20 for all of 2012, has recently spiked to more than $110 over the span of just a few weeks.
Interestingly enough, several Bitcoin-related apps started spiking on the Spanish iPhone market over the weekend. Bitcoin Gold shot up in the Spanish iPhone Finance category from 498 to 72, and another app called Bitcoin Ticker zoomed from 526 to 52 in just one day. A leading service called Bitcoin App jumped from 194 to 151 between Friday and Sunday as Spaniards brooded over the Cyprus crisis. More →
Technophiles who are brave enough to swap in their cash for a virtual currency might want to check out the latest creation from BitInstant. As Parity News reports, BitInstant cofounder Charlie Shrem says that his company is two months away from releasing a BitCoin-based credit card that will let users treat their virtual coins in the same manner they treat state-backed currencies. Shrem says the new card can be used at places that accept MasterCard and has said that users will get slapped with a “1% BitCoin transfer fee on top of the $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee” for every transaction.
UPDATE: MasterCard has officially denied any involvement in the BitCoin credit card project.