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Big Bitcoin Exchange ‘Fixes’ Trading Glitch

Big Bitcoin Exchange ‘Fixes’ Trading Glitch
Trading on one of the largest bitcoin exchanges is set to resume after it identified a technical problem that left it vulnerable to disruption.

MTGox halted transfers of the digital currency to external addresses on 7 February after it spotted what it called “unusual activity”. The company’s action caused bitcoin values to slump from their mid-January high of $1,000 (£600) to about $540.

MTGox said customers should be able to start withdrawing funds “soon”.

The Tokyo-based firm said its investigation into the unusual activity revealed a loophole that thieves could use to fool the transaction process into sending double the correct number of bitcoins. It also left it vulnerable to attacks, which slowed down the rate at which coins could be bought and sold.

This problem revolved around what are known as bitcoin wallets – an essential part of the entire bitcoin system and the place where bitcoin addresses – the virtual post-boxes where each bitcoin is stored – are kept.

Cash withdrawals and transfers of bitcoins to, rather than from, bitcoin wallets were unaffected by the loophole.

The suspension of withdrawals led some bitcoin traders to travel to Japan to confront MTGox’s staff and demand the return of their currency.

The loophole was also thought to have been exploited by thieves, who stole about $2.7m in bitcoins from the Silk Road 2 website.

In a statement, MTGox said it had found a way to combat the loophole by issuing unique identifiers for each transaction. This, it said, should prevent “fraudulent” abuse of the transaction process.

So far, MTGox has not said when withdrawals might start again but said it would issue another update by 20 February at the latest.

When withdrawals do re-start, MTGox said it would moderate the pace of trades to iron out any problems with the new system.

Google to make ‘significant’ changes to avoid EU fine

Google to make ‘significant’ changes to avoid EU fine
Google has promised to make “significant” changes to how rivals appear in search results in an attempt to avoid a multi-billion euro fine.

The latest changes should be sufficient to end a three-year investigation into the search company, the EU’s competition commissioner said. Google had been accused of giving favourable treatment to its own products in search results. The company said it looked forward to resolving the matter.

In a news conference, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he would not seek feedback on the deal from Google’s rivals before it was formalised. “I consider at this point that we don’t need a market test,” he told reporters.   The decision has prompted criticism from lobby groups, including the Microsoft-backed Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (Icomp). “A settlement without third party review is a massive failure,” the group said. “We need time and opportunity to ensure full technical assessment of how effective the proposed remedies would be.”

Google argued that its proposals were fair and wide-reaching. “We will be making significant changes to the way Google operates in Europe,” said Google lawyer Kent Walker. “We have been working with the European Commission to address issues they raised.”

The move marks the third time Google has offered changes and concessions to its services in order to satisfy the EU’s concerns.

Previous offers – such as displaying logos to denote when a Google product was being promoted – were not deemed to go far enough.   The long-running and precedent-setting case arose when a group of 18 companies, including Microsoft and TripAdvisor, argued that Google had abused its position as the dominant search engine.

According to web metric company Comscore, Google has about a 75% share of the web search market in Europe. In a statement, the European Commission said Google had now agreed to offer “comparable” treatment to its rivals.

Cyber Security Summit. Vince Cable Warns of Risks

Vince Cable Warns of Risks at Cyber Security Summit
Vince Cable has warned of the vulnerability of Britain’s essential services to cyber-attack at a summit of regulators and intelligence chiefs. The business secretary told the meeting – the first of its kind – more needed to be done to protect IT systems from attacks by criminals and terrorists. He said there was a growing threat of disruption to “everyday life”.

Banks, gas distribution, rail signalling and mobile networks were particularly vulnerable, he added. All of these systems, and others, depended on “having efficient, non-disruptive cyber systems operating and they are becoming more sophisticated,” Mr Cable told the meeting. “The pressure from consumers is to make it more sophisticated and with that comes vulnerabilities and the need to address those vulnerabilities,” he added.

He cited examples of “the kind of damage that can be done”, such as a 2012 cyber attack on Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, which shut down 30,000 of its computers, and a series of cyber attacks on US banks.

He added: “It is particularly important that those industries providing essential services such as power, telecommunications and banking are adequately protected to avoid disruption to our everyday lives. “We can only achieve this objective through a partnership between government, the regulators and industry.” “Today’s event marks the next step in highlighting the important role of the regulators in overseeing the adoption of robust cyber security measures by the companies that supply these crucial services.”

The regulators, which included representatives from the Bank of England, Civil Aviation Authority, Office of the Nuclear Regulator, Ofgem, Ofwat and Ofcom, were briefed on the threat posed to systems by Sir Ian Lobban, the head of the government’s secret listening post GCHQ.

In a joint comminique, the government and regulators pledged:

More exercises to test procedures and resilience The adoption of security standards and measuring progress against GCHQ’s 10 Steps to Improve Cyber Security plan More information sharing across different industry sectors on how to combat the cyber threat It comes as the Bank of England published a report on Waking Shark 2, an exercise carried out last year to test the UK banking industry’s response to a cyber-attack by a hostile nation.

More than 200 representatives from the major banks, financial regulators, the Treasury and infrastructure providers took part in the four-hour exercise, which was meant to test how they would cope with a major disruption to their computer systems.

The exercise was “desk-based” and did not involve the shutting down of actual systems – but was instead meant to find out how the different banks and agencies would work together to mitigate the impact of a cyber-attack that had shut down their websites and disrupted market data.

The Bank’s report on the exercise recommends nominating a single body to coordinate communications across the industry during an incident and urges banks to report major attacks to the regulators as soon as possible. It also reminds banks to report cyber attacks to the police.

Deputy Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, who is chief executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority, said: “It is essential for financial stability that the UK financial system and its infrastructure continues to work towards improving its ability to withstand cyber-attacks.”