Murder for hire. Drug trafficking. Embezzlement. Money laundering… These might sound like plot lines of a thriller, but they are true stories from the short history of cryptocurrencies – digital currencies conceived by computer hackers and cryptographers that represent a completely new sort of financial transaction that could soon become mainstream.
The most famous – or infamous – cryptocurrency is bitcoin. But look beyond its tarnished reputation and something much shinier emerges. The technology that underlies bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – the blockchain – is hailed as the greatest advancement since the invention of the internet. It is now moving away from being the backbone for a digital currency and making inroads into other core concepts of society: identity, ownership and even the rule of law.