Digital currencies and the software developed to track them have become attractive targets for cybercriminals while also creating a lucrative new market for computer-security firms. In less than a decade, hackers have stolen $US1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) worth of Bitcoin and rival currency Ether, according to Lex Sokolin, global director of fintech strategy at Autonomous Research. Given the currencies’ explosive surge at the end of 2017, the cost in today’s money is much higher.

“It looks like crypto hacking is a $US200 million annual revenue industry,” Sokolin said. Hackers have compromised more than 14 per cent of the Bitcoin and Ether supply, he said.

All told, hacks involving cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have cost companies and governments $US11.3 billion through lost potential tax revenue from coin sales and illegitimate transactions, according to Susan Eustis, chief executive officer of WinterGreen Research. The Bitcoin mania has created an estimated $250 million-a-year crypto hacking industry.

The blockchain ecosystem — the decentralised “distributed ledgers” that track crypto transactions — is also vulnerable. Those losses could snowball as more companies and investors rush into the white-hot cryptocurrency market without weighing the dangers or taking steps to protect themselves.

Blockchain records are shared, making them hard to alter, so some users see them as super-secure. But in many ways they are no safer than any other software, Matt Suiche, who runs the blockchain security company Comae Technologies, said in a phone interview. Read more from brisbanetimes.com.au…

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