On November 13, 2013 The New York Times reported that Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer digital currency, and the first virtual currency or cryptocurrency, had a real value of more than seven billion dollars. This was the financial markets' response to acknowledgement by U.S. federal officials in a Senate hearing that virtual financial networks offered real benefits for the financial system, even as they acknowledged that new forms of digital currency had been used for money laundering and other illegal activity.
Bitcoin originated in November 2008 when a paper was posted on the Internet under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. This paper detailed methods of using a peer-to-peer network to generate what was described as "a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust". In January 2009, the Bitcoin network became operational with the release of the first open source Bitcoin client and the issuance of the first bitcoins, with Satoshi Nakamoto mining the first block of bitcoins ever —known as the "genesis block".
"Investigations into the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto have been attempted by The New Yorker and Fast Company. Fast Company's investigation brought up circumstantial evidence linking an encryption patent application filed by Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry on 15 August 2008, and the bitcoin.org domain name which was registered 72 hours later. The patent application (#20100042841) contained networking and encryption technologies similar to Bitcoin's, and textual analysis revealed that the phrase "...computationally impractical to reverse" appeared in both the patent application and Bitcoin's whitepaper. All three inventors explicitly denied being Satoshi Nakamoto...." (Wikipedia article on History of Bitcoin, accessed 11-18-2013).