The validity of each cryptocurrency's coins is provided by a blockchain. A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. It is "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way". For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority.
In May 2018, Bitcoin Gold (and two other cryptocurrencies) were hit by a successful 51% hashing attack by an unknown actor, in which exchanges lost estimated $18m. In June 2018, Korean exchange Coinrail was hacked, losing US$37 million worth of altcoin. Fear surrounding the hack was blamed for a $42 billion cryptocurrency market selloff. On 9 July 2018 the exchange Bancor had $23.5 million in cryptocurrency stolen.
There are multiple approaches to determining a person's status as a millionaire. One of the two most commonly used measurements is net worth, which counts the total value of all property owned by a household minus the household's debts. According to this definition, a household owning an $800k home, $50k of furnishings, two cars worth $60k, a $60k retirement savings account, $45k in mutual funds, and a $325k vacation home with a $250k mortgage, $40k in car loans, and $25k in credit card debt would be worth about $1,025,000; and every individual in this household would thus be a millionaire. However, according to the net financial assets measurement used for some specific applications (such as evaluating an investor's expected tolerance for risk for stockbroker ethics), equity in one's principal residence is excluded, as are lifestyle assets, such as the car and furniture. Therefore, the above example household would only have net financial assets of $105,000. Another term used is "net investable assets" or working capital. These practitioners may use the term "millionaire" to mean somebody who is free to invest a million units of currency through them as broker. For similar reasons, those who market goods, services and investments to HNWIs are careful to specify a net worth "not counting principal residence". At the end of 2011, there were around 5.1 million HNWIs in the United States, while at the same time there were 11 million millionaires in a total of 3.5 million millionaire households, including those 5.1 million HNWIs.
To be accepted by the rest of the network, a new block must contain a proof-of-work (PoW). The system used is based on Adam Back's 1997 anti-spam scheme, Hashcash. The PoW requires miners to find a number called a nonce, such that when the block content is hashed along with the nonce, the result is numerically smaller than the network's difficulty target.:ch. 8 This proof is easy for any node in the network to verify, but extremely time-consuming to generate, as for a secure cryptographic hash, miners must try many different nonce values (usually the sequence of tested values is the ascending natural numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, ...:ch. 8) before meeting the difficulty target.
As of May 2018, over 1,800 cryptocurrency specifications existed. Within a cryptocurrency system, the safety, integrity and balance of ledgers is maintained by a community of mutually distrustful parties referred to as miners: who use their computers to help validate and timestamp transactions, adding them to the ledger in accordance with a particular timestamping scheme.
As of February 2018, the Chinese Government halted trading of virtual currency, banned initial coin offerings and shut down mining. Some Chinese miners have since relocated to Canada. One company is operating data centers for mining operations at Canadian oil and gas field sites, due to low gas prices. In June 2018, Hydro Quebec proposed to the provincial government to allocate 500 MW to crypto companies for mining. According to a February 2018 report from Fortune, Iceland has become a haven for cryptocurrency miners in part because of its cheap electricity. Prices are contained because nearly all of the country's energy comes from renewable sources, prompting more mining companies to consider opening operations in Iceland.
The term altcoin has various similar definitions. Stephanie Yang of The Wall Street Journal defined altcoins as "alternative digital currencies," while Paul Vigna, also of The Wall Street Journal, described altcoins as alternative versions of bitcoin. Aaron Hankins of the MarketWatch refers to any cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin as altcoins.
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the founders of the Gemini Trust Co. exchange, reported that they had cut their paper wallets into pieces and stored them in envelopes distributed to safe deposit boxes across the United States. Through this system, the theft of one envelope would neither allow the thief to steal any bitcoins nor deprive the rightful owners of their access to them.
According to TNS Financial Services, as reported by CNN Money, 2 million households in the US alone had a net worth of at least $1 million excluding primary residences in 2005. According to TNS, in mid-2006 the number of millionaire US households was 9.3 million, with an increase of half a million since 2005. The study found that half of all millionaire households in the US were headed by retirees. In 2004 the United States saw a "33 percent increase over the 6.2 million households that met that criteria [sic] in 2003", fueled largely by the country's real estate boom.
According to The New York Times, libertarians and anarchists were attracted to the idea. Early bitcoin supporter Roger Ver said: "At first, almost everyone who got involved did so for philosophical reasons. We saw bitcoin as a great idea, as a way to separate money from the state." The Economist describes bitcoin as "a techno-anarchist project to create an online version of cash, a way for people to transact without the possibility of interference from malicious governments or banks".
The Bank for International Settlements summarized several criticisms of bitcoin in Chapter V of their 2018 annual report. The criticisms include the lack of stability in bitcoin's price, the high energy consumption, high and variable transactions costs, the poor security and fraud at cryptocurrency exchanges, vulnerability to debasement (from forking), and the influence of miners.