Bitcoin Forum Falls Prey to Hackers

Just hours after the news of the Silk Road’s downfall began spreading, the most popular Bitcoin forum, bitcointalk.org, was hacked and quickly shut down. The video below shows the comic side of the hack, as rockets were sent cruising across the screen and exploding to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Towards the end, a message appears stating that the forum was seized by the FBI for being illegal, which is clearly a reference to the new Silk Road splash screen. Part of the hack also featured a horribly amateur song about Bitcoin. The video certainly is entertaining, but we need to remember that the hack could pose some significant security concerns for the forum’s users.

The site’s lead administrator, Theymos, sent out a mass email Thursday, October 3, stating that the “Bitcoin Forum’s server was compromised,” and “the attacker(s) *could* have accessed the database.”He warned that this would have included access to personal messages, emails, and encrypted passwords. While these passwords should theoretically take years to crack, Theymos reminded users that it is safer to assume that the passwords are compromised.

If you have a bitcointalk.org account and use the same password for other accounts, you should take immediate action to protect your online identities. It is always a good practice to use different, strong passwords for every service. Users were directed to the Bitcoin reddit for more information. Theymos’s own post on reddit gave a bit more insight into what went wrong. He explained that the attackers were able to inject some PHP code into the forum, perhaps through the avatar gallery, and even offered 50 BTC to the first person able to discover how exactly the attack was executed.

To make matters worse, Eduard Kovacs from SoftPedia reported Thursday that a hacker was offering to sell him 150,000 email addresses and encrypted passwords from bitcointalk.org for 25 BTC. The hacker even sent 5,000 of these records as proof of ownership. Fortunately, however, Theymos is almost certain that these records are false. He compared the hacker’s sample to the actual database and found no matching email addresses.

These past few days have been full of excitement for the Bitcoin community. The Silk Road and the Bitcoin Forums were both brought to their knees in a very very short period of time, but I don’t think either of these events will have any lasting negative effects. The forum is still currently down, which may slow business and discussion for awhile, but there are loads of other useful services available to the community. Even so, Theymos plans to revive the forum as soon as possible. There may be some danger when it comes to the stolen passwords, but as long as users are sensible and put in the effort to change any passwords that they need to, everything should be fine.

The Silk Road’s demise should have minimal lasting impact as well. The Bitcoin economy has grown so much in recent months that the underground market is no longer as central as it used to be. Several huge, legal enterprises have become involved in Bitcoin, and there’s no reason to believe that it will crash alongside the Silk Road.

But as always, only time will tell.

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