Betting on blockchain: firms seek fortune in bitcoin’s plumbing / JEMIMA KELLY / Jul 22, 2015 11:17am EDT

A year ago, bitcoin was widely dismissed as little more than a way for drug-dealers and terrorists to move money around anonymously. Now, some of the world’s biggest banks and companies are buying into the technology behind it.

Underlying the controversial web-based “cryptocurrency” is the blockchain – a massive ledger of every bitcoin transaction ever made that is verified and shared by a global network of computers.

But the data that can be secured by the blockchain is not restricted to bitcoin transactions. Any two parties could use it to exchange other information, including stock deals, legal contracts and property records, within minutes and with no need for a third party to verify it.

Backers say it could cut out the middleman and help fight corruption, as the process by which the data is secured makes it virtually impossible to tamper with. Banks reckon it could save them money by making their operations faster, more efficient and more transparent.