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Legitimate miners and buyers need to incur substantial production and energy expenses, or have to pay the going exchange rates for bitcoins.
Criminal miners pay nearly nothing for the production of new coins, outsourcing the job to hapless victim machines all over the world. Criminal bitcoin thieves don't incur the exchange rate fee for acquisition of bitcoins. They just rely on hacking and malware to siphon bitcoin pockets from law-abiding owners.
What we've got here, then, is a commodity (I hesitate to call it a currency) that has a current price, is free of regulation (for the moment), allows for completely anonymous ownership, and is both highly rewarding and nearly free to create (if you are willing to break the law).
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There is no doubt that bitcoin has staying power, but whether that is just among criminals (and people who wish to traffic with them, such as the Silk Road medication sellers and customers), or if it is going to become a valuable trading commodity for the rest of us remains unclear.
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My information to law enforcement is easy: follow the bitcoin. There's no doubt that more and more criminals will be using bitcoin to generate gain as well as pay their tracks. Whenever you see a stash of bitcoin and have judicial permission to follow the footprints, do this.
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While bitcoin use is not limited to criminals, there's an undeniably large correlation between bitcoin ownership and criminal activity. Notably since bitcoins are becoming increasingly more profitable to criminal malware seeders and botnet operators while concurrently becoming less profitable for traders that are valid.
Here's the key take-away: bitcoins are becoming the"national currency" of criminals the world over and are becoming an increasingly inadequate investment for valid miners.
Cryptocurrency mining is painstaking, expensive, and only sporadically rewarding. Nonetheless, mining includes a magnetic draw for many investors interested in cryptocurrency. This may be because entrepreneurial types see mining as pennies from heaven, such as California gold prospectors in 1848. And If You're technologically inclined, why not do it
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Before you invest time and equipment, browse this explainer to see whether mining is really for you. We'll focus mostly on Bitcoin. (Related: How Bitcoin Works and our useful infographic, What is Bitcoin)
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By mining, you can earn cryptocurrency without having to put down money for this. That said, you certainly don't have to become a miner to own crypto. You can even buy crypto using fiat currency (USD, EUR, JPY, etc); you can trade it on an exchange like Bitstamp using other crypto (example: Using Ethereum or NEO to purchase Bitcoin); you even can earn it by playing video games or even by publishing blogposts on platforms that pay its users in crypto.
In addition to lining the pockets of miners, mining serves a second and vital purpose: it's the only way to release new cryptocurrency into circulation. In other words, miners are essentially"minting" currency. For example, at the time of writing this bit, there were about 17 million Bitcoin in circulation.
In the absence of miners, Bitcoin would nevertheless exist and be usable, but there might never be any additional Bitcoin. There'll come a time when Bitcoin mining ends; each the Bitcoin Protocol, the number of Bitcoin will likely be capped at 21 million. (Associated reading: What Happens to Bitcoin After All 21 Million are Mined).
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Aside from the short-term Bitcoin payoff, being a miner can provide you"voting" power when changes are suggested in the Bitcoin protocol. In other words, a successful miner has influence on the decision-making procedure on such issues as forking.
Bitcoin are mined in units known as"blocks." As of this time of writing, the reward for completing a block is 12.5 Bitcoin. At today's price of about $10,000 per Bitcoin, this means you'd earn (12.5 x 10,000)$125,000.
When Bitcoin was mined in Continued 2009, mining one block would earn you 50 BTC. In 2012, this was halved to 25 BTC. In 2016, this was halved to the current degree of 12.5 BTC. In 2020 or so, the reward size will be halved again to 6.25 BTC.
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If you want to keep track of precisely when these halvings will occur, you can consult the Bitcoin Clock, which upgrades this information in real time.
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Miners are getting paid for their work as auditors. They are doing the job of verifying previous Bitcoin transactions. This convention is meant to keep Bitcoin users honest, and was conceived by Bitcoin's founder, Satoshi Nakamoto. By verifying transactions, miners are helping prevent the"double-spending problem."