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Finance 'The platform is under extreme load:' Cyber attack brings major cryptocurrency exchange to its knees

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One of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges shut Tuesday morning because of a cyber attack.

Photo illustration of Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange website taken September 27, 2017. Picture taken September 27, 2017. play

Photo illustration of Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange website taken September 27, 2017. Picture taken September 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

  • One of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges shut Tuesday morning because of a cyber attack.
  • "The platform is under extreme load," Bitfinex said at 9:39 a.m. ET.
  • Bitcoin was trading slightly lower at $7,421 a coin, according to Markets Insider data.

Bitfinex, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges by trading volumes, was down Tuesday morning after it experienced a cyber attack.

According to its incident page, the exchange shut early Tuesday morning after it experienced problems with its trading engine. For a short period the exchange was back online after the issue was addressed. But the exchange was then hit with a so-called denial-of-service attack, which is when a network of virus-infected computers overwhelm websites with massive amounts of data.

"The platform is under extreme load," the exchange said at 9:39 a.m. ET. "We are investigating. Seems a DDoS attack was launched soon after we relaunched the platform."

Crypto exchange outages were common at the end of 2017 as bitcoin soared to all-time highs near $20,000, but have been less common in 2018 as prices and volumes across the digital coin market have fallen back to earth.

In 2017, the breakneck growth of the market forced some exchanges to stop onboarding new users altogether. A flash crash at Bitfinex in December left customers demanding answers and refunds.

Hacks and cyber attacks have long been a problem for the crypto space. Notably, Mt. Gox, which was the world's largest bitcoin exchange, witnessed a massive DDoS attack in 2013. It shut in 2014 after a $450 million hack. JPMorgan estimates that a third of bitcoin exchanges have been hacked.

"Running an exchange is one of the most complex server-side operations out there," Kyle Samani, a crypto fund manager, told Business Insider.

"On an exchange, everyone wants real time, all the time, globally and the bots are hitting the APIs every few milliseconds both to get orderbook updates and to trade," Samani added. "Doing this at scale is much harder than almost any other application."

2018's less volatile trading environment has given exchanges an opportunity to catch their breath. Bitfinex didn't experience any technical incidents in the entire month of May.

Bitcoin was trading lower in the aftermath of the DDos attack. The cryptocurrency was down 1.04% at $7,421 a coin, according to Markets Insider data.