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How to Secure Your Bitcoin Wallet ?
Bitcoin safety and general security of your accounts is a very important area in crypto. There have been many examples whereby both investors and exchanges have been targeted by hackers.
That’s why it’s important to keep your crypto as safe as possible. There are plenty of different ways you can do this. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to stay secure in the digital world.
Even if you follow all the security measures, there could be ways to hack your cryptocurrency wallet if you are negligent. Backup your private keys and store them in a secure location. If you don’t, there is no chance of recovering your Bitcoin if you lose access to your wallet. Here are the top 6 tips to protect your cryptocurrency wallet:
1. Encrypt your Bitcoin wallet
Having a strong password is essential, but not sufficient. After you open your cryptocurrency wallet, the first step to take is encryption. It keeps malware at bay and protects your Bitcoin against hackers and theft. Most desktop wallets have encryption features to secure your Bitcoin. Take the help of a third-party encryption tool. For online wallets, you have to encrypt it with passcodes and secret phrases. Always use a secure connection while accessing your web-based wallet.
2. Use two-factor authentication
If you use online storage providers, you must understand that there is always a risk of malware attacks. Even if you find a reliable and trusted service, you should take more steps to ensure the safety of your wallet. Never forget to use two-factor authentication if you use web-based wallets.
3. Update Bitcoin client and system
In order to safeguard your crypto wallet, update the system regularly. Frequently scan for any threats. Invest in a proper security solution that can protect your OS and other products. Make sure that the physical storage is free from malware so as to avoid crashes because of a damaged hard drive or corrupted file.
4. Backup your active wallet
You might lose contents due to a malware attack. So back up your Bitcoin wallet by making many copies and store them safely. If your virtual wallet is not active, then destroy all the copies left, after overwriting the files. In a Linux system, you can use shred command.
5. Use multisig addresses
Create a multisig address and every signature must come from a different device. This adds another security level to the two-factor authentication. But instead of just 2, you’ll need more than 2 parties to authenticate a transaction with their own unique private key. You can link your family or friends to your computer. This is best for corporate transactions, or if the keys are stored on separate devices.
6. Maintain anonymity
Use a versatile Bitcoin client with which you can change the address for every transaction. Use an escrow service which acts as a temporary middleman for your transactions. Opt for cold storage wallets like the ledger Nano s. Encrypt the codes on the paper wallet and save the hard copies in a safety vault.
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When deciding to go down the financially anarchic path of cryptocurrency, you are relieving banks of the duty to protect your assets and assuming that responsibility onto yourself. This comes with the risk of being hacked. Private keys are the secret combinations that yield access to each wallet that your coins or tokens are stored in. If you are hacked and your private keys are stolen, the person who stole them has access to your coins or tokens and there is no way of recovering them. No fraud protection to call and no authority to reach. The rules of the Bitcoin network are intentionally simple. He who has the keys has the Bitcoin. The network doesn’t care that you’re Joe Shmoe and those bitcoins are rightfully yours, if someone else gets your keys, they get your funds.
“Your keys, your bitcoin. Not your keys, not your bitcoin.” – Andreas Antonopoulos
There are 4 primary categories for wallet types, and they are named:
There is an important distinction between wallets and clients. This distinction is made below:
A wallet is a collection of data such as a user’s private and public keys and his address. A wallet can send and receive crypto in the form of spendable outputs.
A client is the software that connects a user to the cryptocurrency network in question. It handles all the communication, updates the wallet with incoming funds, and uses information from the wallet to sign outgoing transactions.
A Full client, or “full node” has the entire history of blockchain transactions. It also manages the user’s wallets and can initiate transactions directly on the network.
A Lightweight client stores the user’s wallet but relies on third-party servers’ to access the network.
A Web client is accessed through a web browser and stores the user’s wallet on a server owned by a third-party.
A Mobile client, usually used on smartphones, can either operate as a full client, a lightweight client, or a web client. Some mobile clients are synchronized with a web or desktop client, providing a multi-platform wallet across multiple devices, with a common source of funds!
Web wallets vary from coin to coin. We will use Bitcoin as an example on how to setup a web wallet.
Go to a web wallet provider like https://blockchain.info/
Click on option “Get a Free Wallet”.
Sign up providing your username and choose a secure password.
BTC, Ether, and BCH can be exchanged and stored in this wallet.
Explore the advanced security options such as recovery phrase, Google authenticator, etc.
To receive bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies, you must notify the sender about your wallet’s address, just as how you would exchange email addresses to send email.
Cautionary note on exchanges: Avoid storing your cryptocurrencies with an exchange, even for a limited amount of time, it exposes you to many dangers.
Web wallets are the least secure. Especially exchange web wallets.
Web Wallet examples: Green Address, Circle, Coinbase, Coinkite
*Web wallets store your private keys (i.e. password) for you on their servers*
Easy access to funds from any device
Some wallets are attached to exchanges and offer additional security such as offline storage
Coinbase does both
You trust a company not to steal your funds and disappear
You trust a company to keep your funds safe from attacks
Software downloaded and installed on a PC or laptop.
Most wallet softwares are made by volunteers or cryptocurrency startups and are tailored to their specific coin
Some lightweight wallets like Coinomi and Exodus are multi-currency and can store a wide variety of coins in the same location
Desktop wallets can be full nodes. In this case they consistently update the transaction history of the blockchain to contribute to the maintenance of the decentralized network and its consensus
Better control and protection. Be sure *private keys are encrypted with strong pass phrases and regularly backed up*.
It is more incentivizing for hackers to target centralized third party servers to steal many wallets than to target an individual’s computer
Still a bit vulnerable to Internet attacks (spying, malware or hardware malfunctions).
It takes a long time to download and can be inconvenient to keep synchronizing with the network.
Reduces your hard drive capacity.
Desktop wallets can be lightweight
Same advantages of a desktop wallet, yet you don’t have to download a full node
Private key is held on your computer, meaning you have total control
Some can hold a wide range of assets
Cannot verify transactions as it does have the transaction history on it.
Therefore must trust the third-party servers to verify transactions for you
Still a bit vulnerable to Internet attacks
Installed on a mobile device- usually operate as a lightweight client or a web client
Smartphone cameras can scan QR codes
Good for day-to-day transactions
If mobile device is lost or stolen the funds are not gone, backups can help you access your funds. (In case of theft, contact third party immediately)
Due to low battery, if the phone dies or is turned off payments are affected.
Do not type your PIN when the device is visible to others
Choose reputable and proven secure wallets.
Cold and Colder Storage a.k.a. Paper or hardware (Best Recommendation)
Keeping your private keys entirely offline is the best way to protect them
“True Cold Storage” means that the private keys have never been on a networked computer or device
Signing of outgoing transactions also occurs offline.
This procedure is best for long-term storage of large funds that you will not be sending out very frequently. Offline storage is impractical for everyday use
“Conventional Cold Storage” is usually an offline medium for storing cryptocurrencies that only goes online to sign transactions. This is more realistic for an active wallet, but still comes with online threats
Cold Storage Types:
On an offline hardware wallet
A physical bitcoin known as a bearer item
USB drive or other data storage medium
Provide extra security, not connected to anywhere, cannot be hacked like a computer
Private keys generated, stored within the device and never leave the device
Transactions signed within a PIN protected external device (requires physical confirmation)
Less convenience than desktop and mobile wallets
Price/buy from original stores to avoid compromised shipments
Examples: Trezor, Ledger Nano S
Created by printing a new public address and private key onto paper, or writing it down.
Store documents with public and private keys on a safe place, Make at least 2 copies.
Maximum protection from cyber-attacks/hardware failures/operating system errors/breakdowns
Loss, theft, paper destruction
Must be imported to software at some time, unlike hardware wallets
Make sure you are working offline when generating a paper wallet!
Generate a different wallet for expenses that you pay using bitcoins, and use different ones for long term storage of bitcoins
Recap for all wallets:
Avoid use of online services
If you use an online web wallet, it is advised to save that page and generate the private keys offline
Back up your wallets regularly
Encrypt your wallet