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Bitcoin exchange Bitstamp halts withdrawals due to 'nuisance attack' by hackers

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Bitstamp, one of the biggest online Bitcoin exchanges, has suspended withdrawals, the latest setback for the virtual currency since a service disruption at a Tokyo-based exchange last week.

A denial-of-service attack, in which a website is flooded with requests for data, obstructed Bitstamp's ability to check account balances, the exchange said in a statement. Customers won't be able to withdraw funds until a fix is issued, and transactions that failed in the past two days will be canceled, the company said.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that can be used to buy everything from Tesla Motors Inc. cars to Gummi bears.

Mt.Gox, the other major online exchange, said on Friday that it stopped withdrawals because of a technical issue. The virtual currency has since declined about 19 percent and was trading at $642.29 on Tuesday afternoon in New York, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, which averages exchange prices.

“This is a nuisance attack,” said Andreas Antonopoulos, chief security officer for Blockchain.info, a provider of online wallets for digital currencies. “Funds have not been lost and have not been affected. What it's done is slow down their accounting system from reconciling transactions.”

Antonoupoulos said withdrawals probably will resume within two days.

“No funds have been lost and no funds are at risk,” Bitstamp said in the statement. A message sent to the office of Bitstamp seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

The governments of India, China and Russia have sought to ban or limit the use of Bitcoins, which exist as software and aren't controlled by any central authority. Some American-based exchanges have closed at the behest of law enforcement or had difficulties obtaining business bank accounts because of regulatory concerns.

Mt.Gox said its services were restored and that customers can take out cash “as normal.”

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