The digital currency Bitcoin has been making the news recently, because it hit an all-time high of $1000 per Bitcoin recently, only to plunge below $500 after China and other governments have expressed the desire to hinder, control or oppose digital currencies. Yet, Bitcoin is a great discussion topic and a TV anchor wanted to give away $20 worth of Bitcoins during a TV show. The currency is represented by a long sequence of numbers, which is seen here in the form of a QR-code (a 2D barcode).
Unfortunately for the TV anchor, the QR-code is all that is needed for anyone who knows how Bitcoin works to cash in on the money. This is like showing your anonymous Swiss bank account number on live TV! The person (known as milkywaymasta in Reddit) who took the money uses the name is going to give it back, but he wanted to make the point that it is foolish to show this on TV and I guess that the point has been made now. Bloomberg TV has posted a video update about this episode.
This reminds us that even if Bitcoin is arguably very secure, the user’s knowledge and ability to protect the access to his/her Bitcoins may be the weakest point of all. Since people are used to think about “money” in physical terms, some snafus like this may happen at first. Bitcoin is not completely anonymous and there is a possibility to track the movement of funds, but I have not yet heard of a high-profile case in which this has been put to use. Feel free to comment if you know of one.