Bitcoin prices, along with the wider cryptocurrency market, have held steady following the sudden shut down of a relatively minor cryptocurrency exchange in Canada yesterday.
MapleChange revealed via Twitter that a software “bug” had allowed all of the 913 bitcoin (worth some $6 million at current exchange rates) it was holding to be stolen.
MapleChange attempted to reassure users that it would be conducting a “thorough investigation” but warned it would be unable to make refunds before deleting its social media accounts and taking its website offline. Users now attempting to access maplechange.com are met with a timeout error.
Bitcoin exchange hacks remain common around the world despite attempts to better regulate the industry and protect users and investors.
In the UK, where the cryptocurrency sector remains a “wild west”, the government has promised to improve protections for users by moving bitcoin companies and exchanges under the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority, which looks after the country’s extensive banking industry.
While bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange hacks are never good news, MapleChange’s small size will mean the damage is somewhat contained. The MapleChange Twitter account had fewer than 2,000 followers, compared to Binance’s 880,000.
Prominent bitcoin and cryptocurrency experts and industry leaders were quick to weigh in on the supposed hack, warning users to avoid smaller or unknown exchanges.
Changpeng Zhao, the chief executive of the world’s largest crypto exchange by volume Binance, advised consumers to not use exchanges if they do offer cold wallets.
It was also suggested that MapleChange may have pulled off a so-called exit scam, building up reserves of bitcoin before claiming its funds have been lost or stolen.
Many others repeated the mantra: “If you don’t control the private keys, it’s not your bitcoin,” a phrase used to warn people that keeping their cryptocurrencies with businesses often means they have little proof of ownership.
The now-downed exchange will invoke memories of the Mt. Gox exchange scandal for bitcoin and cryptocurrency veterans, the world’s largest crypto loss for an exchange.
In February 2014 Mt. Gox revealed that almost 750,000 of its customers’ bitcoins, as well as 100,000 of its own Bitcoins, had been stolen — what at the time was an eye-watering 7% of all bitcoins and worth around $473 million.
The bitcoin price has been remarkably stable over recent months, as investors and traders await decisions by regulators, user adoption, and interest from banks.