A hacker has accessed the email system of the Hefei branch of the Chinese central bank and used it to spread fake reports of a crackdown on bitcoin trading.
The hacker used the email to disseminate fake press invitations to US news organisations, declaring that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the People’s Bank of China were about to crack down on “all aspects and services of bitcoin trading in both mainland China and Hong Kong,” according to a report from the South China Morning Post.
The email said that the crackdown would encompass “all virtual currency services and activities of both individuals and businesses including market makers, mining operators, trading platforms and wallets,” as part of a new anti-money laundering regulatory framework that would be unveiled at a press briefing in Beijing on 14 February.
The hacker also used the email address to send replies to journalists, and provide a registration form for the fictitious mid-February briefing.
Both PBOC and Hong Kong’s monetary authority have since denied the scheduling of such as an event.
According to the Post the email was sent using an address bearing the suffix @pbocgov.cn, and belonged to an official from PBOC’s branch in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province.
The official claims that his email had been hacked, and that he was completely unaware his address had been used to disseminate the false messages.
Analysts say the ruse was likely an attempt by short-sellers to drive the price of bitcoin down further, following a drop in the cryptocurrency’s value due to regulatory concerns.
Cryptocurrency traders have previously made use of false rumours to manipulate prices, with last year seeing the circulation of fake reports that Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin had died, and that Amazon.com would begin to accept bitcoin payments.
The PBOC hack arrives just after Beijing declared that it would crack down on both domestic and overseas crypotcurrency trading platforms.