Can they do so in ways not sanctioned by Bitcoin network? Is there any way to rip off the network and make loads of money dishonestly?
- Can they do so in ways not sanctioned by Bitcoin network? Is there any way to rip off the network and make loads of money dishonestly?
Bitcoin isn't infallible. It can be cheated, but doing so is extremely difficult. Bitcoin was designed to evade some of the central problems with modern currencies – namely, that their trustworthiness hinges upon that of people who might not have users' best interests in mind. Every currency in the world (other than Bitcoin) is controlled by large institutions who keep track of what's done with it, and who can manipulate its value. And every other currency has value because people trust the institutions that control them.
Bitcoin doesn't ask that its users trust any institution. Its security is based on the cryptography that is an integral part of its structure, and that is readily available for any and all to see. Instead of one entity keeping track of transactions, the entire network does, so Bitcoins are astoundingly difficult to steal, or double-spend. Bitcoins are created in a regular and predictable fashion, and by many different users, so no one can decide to make a whole lot more and lessen their value. In short, Bitcoin is designed to be inflation-proof, double-spend-proof and completely distributed.
Nonetheless, there are a few ways that one can acquire Bitcoins dishonestly. Firstly, one can steal private keys. Key theft isn't something that Bitcoin security has been designed to prevent: it's up to users to keep their keys safe. But the cryptography is designed so that it is completely impossible to deduce someone's private key from their public one. As long as you keep your private key to yourself, you don't have much to worry about. Furthermore, one could theoretically create a new block chain, but due to the way in which the block chain is constructed, this would be extremely difficult and require massive amounts of processing power. A full explanation of the difficulties involved can be found in the block chain article.
Bitcoin can be ripped off – but doing so would be extremely hard and require considerable expertise and a staggering amount of processing power. And it's only going to get harder with time. Bitcoin isn't impenetrable, but it's close enough to put any real worries in the peripherals.