Everybody's been wondering who hacked Bitcoin investor Allinvain's digital wallet and lifted nearly half a million dollars' worth of the virtual currency this week. A recent discovery by a poster on the Symantec forums recently found out that it might actually not be a who, but a what. According to some source code discovered on an underground forum, a type of malware known as a Trojan horse scans for and steals digital wallet files off of unsuspecting computers. Hackers build and run similar programs to steal credit card numbers stored on hard drives, except stealing Bitcoins is much more lucrative because, like cash, once the wallet is missing, the money is gone for good.
This is essentially what happened to Allinvain earlier this week. As a virtual currency, Bitcoin units are nothing more than pieces of unique code with a monetary value attached to them. Here's a thorough explainer on how Bitcoin all works from The Economist or this animation also does the trick:
Cash money is basically the same thing--a unique code printed on a piece of paper with a certain value guaranteed by the government. However, a major difference is that Bitcoin is not issued by any central bank and, decentralized as such, is inherently anonymous. This is great for programs like a Trojan. On the internet, nobody knows you're a chunk of malicious code.