Practically everyone who is interested in the buzzy digital currency Bitcoin trades at Mt. Gox. It handles more than half of all Bitcoin’s transactions, with roughly $144 million in USD filtering through the system right now, according to Bitcoin Charts.
But Mt. Gox is under increasing legal, federal and technological pressure that appears to be causing traders to lose some faith in the website, as trading volumes on Mt. Gox are slipping.
In the latest development, Symantec researchers discovered that a group of hackers had spoofed the Mt. Gox site and duped users into downloading harmful malware onto their computers — another in a series of attacks aimed at harassing Mt. Gox and some of its users (and perhaps stealing some Bitcoins in the process). A string of malicious DDoS attacks throughout 2013 have caused the website to even shut down a few times to stabilize the currency.
Mt. Gox has also faced legal heat. The website has introduced tighter verification regulations on non-Bitcoin trades, according to Forbes, in order to separate itself from recently shuttered trading website Liberty Reserve (indicted for participating in $6 billion worth of money laundering) and intermediary Mutum Sigellum (seized by Homeland Security for failing to register as a money transmitter). On top of that, Mt. Gox has been hit with a $75 million lawsuit, according to Gawker, by Bitcoin portal CoinLab, after a partnership went sour.
Interestingly, the Bitcoin exchange rate has remained steady throughout it all. The currency has other places to go, and in the event that Mt. Gox doesn’t make it (and there is a growing amount of chatter about that possibility), a new trading post will rise from its ashes.
Currently, 11 different exchanges manage Bitcoin transactions, with the second largest, BitStamp, handling more than $27 million in trades. As unstable as Mt. Gox may get, that escape route is a sign that Bitcoin has outgrown its original trading arena.