It might have passed you by, but an essential part of the Internet's infrastructure took a heavy knock last week. The Silk Road—you know, the website where you can buy any drug imaginable—was subjected to a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Bitcoin, the four-year-old virtual currency that approximates cash on the internet, now powers an economy worth more than $1 billion and is widely admired for the technical sophistication that allows it to operate without a central authority. It got its own ticker on CNBC and inspired a legion of startups. And yet, we still don’t know where it came from.
Apparently, I'm a Bitcoin miner now, and it looks like I'm actually pretty good at it. Ars is currently in possession of one of the elusive but very real Butterfly Labs Bitcoin Miners. It's a tiny little black box that fits in the palm of my hand, and it contains a specialized ASIC adept at chewing through SHA-256 cryptographic functions—exactly the kind of calculations necessary to bring more Bitcoins into the world. Turns out, it's very good at what it does: it computes hashes at the rate of about 5.3 billion per second.
Here's a little-known quirk of cyber currency Bitcoin: There are coded messages hidden in the ledger that track bitcoin transactions. Most are innocuous, but this week, the discovery of a malicious transmission filled with porn links set the Bitcoin community abuzz.
Bitcoin. Everybody’s talking about it. What’s true, and what’s hype? Perhaps the only thing that’s clear about Bitcoin is that it’s not going away anytime soon. Who am I to say? I’m not an economist; I’m a hacker, who has spent his career exploring and repairing large networks. And networks may very well be how the world works — financial, social, electronic, even physical.
I’m on neither “Team Bitcoin” nor “Team Global Financial System.” I’m on “Team Lets Fix This Thing.”