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One person is probably responsible for Bitcoin's price rise

Bitcoin is complicated. From what, exactly, it's good for to who created it, there remains a host of unanswered questions about the world's foremost cryptocurrency.

But when it comes to what drove the monumental price rise over the last 9 years, we now have at least a partial answer — and it's not what you'd think. You see, it turns out that one person or one coordinated group is likely responsible for a massive increase in Bitcoin's value back in 2013. Yup, just one.

That's the conclusion of a group of researchers in the Journal of Monetary Economics, who write that the price of Bitcoin has been (surprise!) subject to manipulation over the years.

"Suspicious trades on a Bitcoin currency exchange are linked to rises in the exchange rate," they note in the paper highlights. "A single actor likely drove the USD/BTC exchange rate from $150 to $1000 in 2 months."

That's ... quite the jump to attribute to one person. And how did he or she allegedly pull this off? Sketchily.

Let's harken back to 2013, when, according to the Wall Street Journal, the exchange Mt. Gox (which actually and truly started as a trading site for Magic: The Gathering cards) was handling roughly 70 percent of all Bitcoin trades. The researchers note that 600,000 Bitcoins "were fraudulently acquired" via trading on the exchange, and that "suspicious trades" corresponded with price increases that were outside of Bitcoin's normal growth.

"Based on rigorous analysis with extensive robustness checks," the researchers note, "the paper demonstrates that the suspicious trading activity likely caused the unprecedented spike in the USD-BTC exchange rate in late 2013, when the rate jumped from around $150 to more than $1,000 in two months."

So who did this, and what does this mean for Bitcoin's future? We reached out to the researchers involved, and will update this when and if we hear back.

In the meantime, however, it's important to keep in mind that the largely unregulated world of cryptocurrencies is vulnerable to market manipulation. If someone wants to pump and dump, well, they probably can.

Does that mean that Bitcoin, or its less-popular altcoin brethren, are destined to crash? Not necessarily. It does mean, though, that anyone dipping their toe into the cryptocurrency pool should do so with the understanding that there are likely actors working behind the scene to juice exchange rates. Buyer beware, and all that.

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