Hackers nab $5M in bitcoins from exchange

Hackers pilfered over $5 million worth of bitcoins from major bitcoin exchange Bitstamp, the company said.

“This breach represents a small fraction of Bitstamp’s total bitcoin reserves,” said a statement on the exchange’s homepage. Most of the company’s stockpile is kept on servers not connected to the Internet.

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The United Kingdom and Slovenia-based exchange shut itself down Monday, saying it had “reason to believe” digital criminals had compromised their network.

Users of bitcoins — a virtual currency that can be used at an increasing number of major retailers or exchanged for physical currency — store and transfer their bitcoins through online exchanges, such as Bitstamp.

“Balances held prior to our temporary suspension of services will not be affected and will be honored in full,” the company said.

The $5 million theft pales in comparison to previous bitcoin hacks. Early last year, Mt. Gox — which handled over two-thirds of all bitcoin transactions at the time — lost $475 million in bitcoins to a possible cyberattack. The company quickly went bankrupt, fueling fear among regulators about bitcoin security.

Federal regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Capitol Hill lawmakers will likely consider enhanced bitcoin regulations in 2015.

Bitstamp accounts for roughly 6 percent of bitcoin transactions. The exchange hasn’t yet offered a specific timeline for when it will be back online.

“We are working to transfer a secure backup of the Bitstamp site onto a new safe environment and will be bringing this online in the coming days,” the company said.