In Charles Stross' 2013 science fiction novel, Neptune's Brood, the universal interstellar payment system is known as "bitcoin" and operates using cryptography. Stross later blogged that the reference was intentional, saying "I wrote Neptune's Brood in 2011. Bitcoin was obscure back then, and I figured had just enough name recognition to be a useful term for an interstellar currency: it'd clue people in that it was a networked digital currency."
In this section we’ll go over several options for trading bitcoin on margin. We’ll also outline the options to short the virtual currency. Before we go any further, a caution is in order. Bitcoin prices are highly volatile. Prices rose from a low of 195.50 on November 1st to a high of 1,090 by November 30th 2013. From here, the btc price crashed to a low of 420 on December 18th, only to go back up and retest the 1,000 level in January of this year. One bitcoin is currently worth 825.88 on btc-e. The chart below demonstrates this volatility.
Mine It: The easiest—but slowest—way into Bitcoin is to mine it. Set up a dedicated computer to do nothing but decrypt Bitcoin blocks, install some Bitcoin-mining software and let it do its thing. Again, doing so on a mid-range desktop could take upwards of a year or more to fully decrypt a single block. That's not going to be worth the time or effort.
Bitcoin (BTC) is known as the first open-source, peer-to-peer, digital cryptocurrency that was developed and released by a group of unknown independent programmers named Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. Cryptocoin doesn’t have any centralized server used for its issuing, transactions and storing, as it uses a distributed network public database technology named blockchain, which requires an electronic signature and is supported by a proof-of-work protocol to provide the security and legitimacy of money transactions. The issuing of Bitcoin is done by users with mining capabilities and is limited to 21 million coins. Currently, Bitcoin’s market cap surpasses $138 billion and this is the most popular kind of digital currency. Buying and selling cryptocurrency is available through special Bitcoin exchange platforms or ATMs.
Two members of the Silk Road Task Force—a multi-agency federal task force that carried out the U.S. investigation of Silk Road—seized bitcoins for their own use in the course of the investigation. DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV, who attempted to extort Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht ("Dread Pirate Roberts"), pleaded guilty to money laundering, obstruction of justice, and extortion under color of official right, and was sentenced to 6.5 years in federal prison. U.S. Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges pleaded guilty to crimes relating to his diversion of $800,000 worth of bitcoins to his personal account during the investigation, and also separately pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with another cryptocurrency theft; he was sentenced to nearly eight years in federal prison.