I’ve just had my first scare with Bitcoin, the virtual crypto-currency that I decided to dabble with. I bought 4.943 Bitcoins for $98 last week through the Mt. Gox exchange. I haven’t done anything with them since then, so they have remained at Mt. Gox in my trading account. I was scrolling through Twitter today and noticed a tweet from one of the Bitcoin-related accounts I follow warning of a hack at Mt. Gox. The site had a message posted saying all activity has been frozen after someone had $1,000 worth of Bitcoins stolen. Here’s the fun part:

Leaked information includes username, email and hashed password, which does not allow anyone to get to the actual password, should it be complex enough. If you used a simple password you will not be able to login on Mt.Gox until you change your password to something more secure. If you used the same password on different places, it is recommended to change it as soon as possible.

I had a fairly complex password, but not crypto-complex. Since activity is frozen until Monday morning, I can’t go in to change my password or, for peace of mind, make sure my paltry 4.943 Bitcoins are still there (I assume so because Mt. Gox said only the one user was affected). I entered the Bitcoin world with a willingness to lose my money as part of the bargain. But I was thinking more along the lines of the Bitcoins losing value rather than being stolen. All this comes just days after reports that a person claimed to have lost $500,000 worth of Bitcoins. I, however, won’t be cashing out because I want the actual experience of buying something with Bitcoins. I may have to get that done sooner rather than later.

One disturbing sidenote: When I tried to check into my Gmail account for the Mt. Gox email notification, I got a message from Google that it detected “suspicious activity” and required me to change my password. Wary of a “phishing” attack, in which a bogus email or web page asks for your password, I took some steps to make sure that I changed my Gmail pasword in a legitimate process. If I screwed up, you’ll read about it here.