The boom in cryptocurrencies and their underlying technology is becoming too big for central banks, long the guardian of official money, to ignore.

Until recently, officials at major central banks were happy to watch as pioneers in the field progressed by trial and error, safe in the knowledge that cryptocurrencies were dwarfed by the roughly $5 trillion circulating daily in conventional currency markets.

But now, as officials turn an eye toward the increasingly pervasive technology, the risk is that they are reacting too late to both the pitfalls and the opportunities presented by digital coinage.