Mt. Gox, the world’s largest online Bitcoin exchange, has gone dark in the wake of claims that it has been the target of a long-term hacking theft to the tune of at least $350 million.
That’s according to an as-yet-unverified leaked document, which circulated throughout the Bitcoin community Monday night, and pits the losses at 744,408 Bitcoins — or six percent of the total Bitcoin circulation.
Made available by Bitcoin entrepreneur Ryan Selkis, the document claims that the “malleability-related theft” had gone “unnoticed for several years” due in large part to a bug in Bitcoin software. It also speculates regarding the devastating effect the theft could have on Bitcoin’s already shaky public perception.
“At the risk of appearing hyperbolic, this could be the end of Bitcoin, at least for most of the public,” the document states.
Protesters who have lost money in the heist reportedly gathered outside Mt. Gox’s Tokyo office. A post on Forbes explains that since the company is not regulated like a bank, Mt. Gox doesn’t offer any sort of insurance for its more than a million customers, leaving them “cold and unprotected.” Those unlucky masses will, however, be able to treat their misfortune as tax-deductible losses.
A joint statement by other Bitcoin companies, however, sought to assuage the damage, claiming that fellow businesses “will continue to thrive, and to fulfill the promise that bitcoin offers as the future of payment in the Internet age.”
Ben Doernberg, a digital currencies advocate in New York, concurred.
“Everyone in the Bitcoin community feels terrible for those who were victims of Mt. Gox’s horrific incompetence, but none of the fundamentals of the currency have changed in any way,” Doernberg told Newsweek. “Bitcoin is designed to allow users to keep control over their own money precisely to prevent situations like this.”