Bitcoin.org, the organization that oversees the development of the Bitcoin software, has warned users that state-sponsored attackers will likely target the upcoming release.
Bitcoin Core, the open source client for Bitcoin, validates the blockchain and all transactions. Bitcoin Core 0.12.1 was released in April and developers will soon make available version 0.13.0.
In a security notice published on Wednesday, Bitcoin.org said it has reason to believe that the Bitcoin Core 0.13.0 binaries will be targeted by state-sponsored threat actors. Users have been provided an encryption key that can help verify the legitimacy of Bitcoin Core binaries.
“We ask the Bitcoin community, and in particular the Chinese Bitcoin community to be extra vigilant when downloading binaries from our website,” the security notice reads.
“In such a situation, not being careful before you download binaries could cause you to lose all your coins. This malicious software might also cause your computer to participate in attacks against the Bitcoin network. We believe Chinese services such as pools and exchanges are most at risk here due to the origin of the attackers,” Bitcoin.org warned.
Experts pointed out that the Bitcoin.org website does not use HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP), which allows a government that controls a certificate authority (CA) to generate its own certificate for the site. The attacker can hijack the website’s IP and replace the key provided by Bitcoin.org with their own.
China, which appears to be the main suspect in this case, does control a CA, namely the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). CNNIC’s new certificates were banned last year by Mozilla and Google after one of the organization’s intermediate certificates was used to issue fake Google certificates.
Bitcoin’s popularity and high value has made it a tempting target for various types of threat actors. Several Bitcoin exchanges have been attacked over the past months and some of them were even forced to shut down their operations due to the breaches they suffered.
The latest victim is Hong Kong-based Bitfinex, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges. The company had tens of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin stolen as a result of a hack that is still being investigated.
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