Last Sunday a message posted on message board 4Chan started the rumor that Vitalik Buterin, the founder of cryptocurrency Ethereum, had been killed in a car crash. News of the 23-year-old, Russian-born programmer’s demise was soon proved false – but not before 20%, or roughly $4bn, had been wiped from Ethereum’s soaring market value.

The hoax not only drew attention to Ethereum, the second largest digital currency after bitcoin, which had seen its value rise fiftyfold since the start of the year to $300 a coin, but also to the booming market in other so-called cryptocurrencies that could now be on the cusp of mainstream financial credibility.

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Last week Barclays’ CEO for personal and corporate banking, Ashok Vaswani, revealed the lender had opened discussions with UK regulators about adopting digital currencies.

“We have been talking to a couple of fintechs [financial technology companies] and have actually gone with the fintechs to the FCA [the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK regulator] to talk about how we could bring the equivalent of bitcoin, not necessarily bitcoin, but cryptocurrencies into play,” Vaswani told CNBC at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Obviously [it’s] a new area, obviously an area we’ve got to be careful with. We are working our way through it.”