Bitcoin plunges over 12% after soaring near $17,000

The price of bitcoin – an increasingly popular digital currency – smashed close to $17,000 in early Friday trading in Asia but plummeted more 12 percent to below $15,000 within only a few hours later.

Bitcoin – which is not tied to any bank or government – was down 12.6 percent on the Bitstamp exchange at $14,500.76 as of 0530 GMT, after rising to a record $16,666.66.

It was still up more than 30 percent for the week, as investors debated about whether the cryptocurrency was in a bubble that was about to burst.

The fall in the price of the world’s now most popular digital investment came as concerns started to rise over its security.

Earlier, a Slovenia-based bitcoin mining exchange company said it had been hacked for a potential loss of at least $78 million.

The company, NiceHash, announced that the theft had taken place on Wednesday after “highly professional hackers based outside the European Union” compromised an employee’s computer to access its systems.

Concerns had already been growing among states over the potential threats of bitcoin – that would start trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange this weekend – on national economies. South Korea has to the same effect announced measures to curb the craze in the virtual currency.

The country said on Friday it was studying measures to regulate speculative trading in cryptocurrencies. To the same effect, South Korea’s financial regulator said it had ruled out using bitcoin for derivative products. The decision effectively bans investing in bitcoin futures.

Tech savvy South Koreans are increasingly betting their part-time incomes and retirement packages on bitcoins and other virtual currencies, the report added. The country has just 50 million people but accounts for about one-fifth of global bitcoin trades.

Earlier this week, South Korea’s justice ministry said it would consider ways to regulate crypto currency exchanges and devise stiff penalties for crimes related to such transactions.

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