46,000 Bitcoins, amounting to more than $200,000, have been stolen in a clever hack on Linode, a service that allows customers to run virtual machines on remote servers.
Bitcoin is the first digital currency that is completely distributed. The network is made up of users like yourself so no bank or payment processor is required between you and whoever you're trading with. This decentralization is the basis for Bitcoin's security and freedom.
Your Bitcoins can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Anybody can start mining, buying, selling or accepting Bitcoins regardless of their location.
Take a look at this quick, informative video to learn more about Bitcoin.
(How does Bitcoin work?)
The heist took place in the following manner:
Andresen was using Linode to operate his "Bitcoin Faucet"—a website that doles out small amounts of new coins to users as a way to stimulate interest in the currency. Merak Palatinus was using Linode to communally mint new Bitcoins in a miners pool. Zhou Tong was using Linode to operate a Bitcoin trading site called Bitcoinica. Each also had enough Bitcoins stored on the file system to facilitate daily transactions.
The thief, it seems, was able to obtain customer support privileges which allowed him to find out which customers were holding Bitcoin wallets. The thief was then able to log in to the accounts through a weakness in the Linode manager—which customers use to configure their virtual machines—reboot the machines and change the root passwords. After that, it's take the money and run.
Linode has acknowledged the problem and is working to correct it. For now, Bitcoin value is holding steady at $4.60, perhaps due in part to the fact that Bitcoin's developers are accepting the loss.
If the graphics had been better, this theft might have looked like the heist in Charles Stross' 2007 novel Halting State:
The doors are three times as high as a tall man, carved from giant ebony beams clasped in a frame of some silvery metal... But they're not silvery now - they're glowing dull red, then a bright, rosy pulse of heat lights them up from the outside, and the doors begin to collapse inwards...
In through the smoke marches a formation of monstrous soldiers. They're larger than life and twice as gnarly, prognathous green-skinned jaws featuring tusks capped in gold...
"You're looking at an Orcish war band... The thing behind them is a dragon. They seem to have brought him along for fire support...
Over the space of a minute they denude the floor of the bank, snatching up the treasures that are inexplicably popping into view from the ethereal vaults...
(Read more about Stross' virtual world theft)