In the span of a few years, cryptocurrencies have grown from digital novelties to trillion-dollar technologies with the potential to disrupt the global financial system. Bitcoin and hundreds of other cryptocurrencies are increasingly held as investments, and they are used to buy everything from software to real estate to illegal drugs.

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To proponents, cryptocurrencies are a democratizing force, wresting the power of money creation and control from central banks and Wall Street. Critics, however, say the new technology is wildly unregulated and is empowering criminal groups, terrorist organizations, and rogue states. Electricity-guzzling crypto mining is also harmful to the environment, they argue. 

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Financial regulators are now scrambling to respond. Regulations vary considerably around the world, with some governments embracing cryptocurrencies and others banning or limiting