Bitcoins can and do get stolen, BUT crypto payments are secure. Here are a few easy tips you can use to keep your wallet data 'clean'.
Did you know that 146 types of malware targeting bitcoin wallets with the potential of stealing tokens have been identified? At least, experts from SecureWorks, a division of Dell Inc. signal the alarm in a research paper released at the RSA conference. So, it's kind of... official!
Additionally, these kinds of "infections" or cyber-threats are very sophisticated and hard to detect. Before you signal the alarm in the whole neighborhood though, you need to primarily understand why bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies can get stolen. First of all, keep in mind that these thefts do not happen on the blockchain itself as all the information relating to token exchanges cross-accounts is encrypted, but from wallets.
While the reasons are multiple, the level of anonymity that bitcoin transactions ensure remains at the core of malicious activities. Not only do you have the possibility to create as many addresses as you want, but also thanks to technological progress, bitcoin transactions are faster, requiring roughly between 10 minutes to a couple of hours to complete, whereas a wire transfer can take up to 10 business days. This is yet another reason why ransomware attackers are drawn to your e-wallet like bumblebees to honey. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep your wallet, as well as all your online activity, secure.
Despite the sophisticated infrastructure it runs on and the resources invested in improving bitcoin wallet security, BTC holders are still not 100% protected. There are yet a lot of technical glitches that need fixing. BUT, don't freak out, because even if you are not a tech geek or a smart contract developer, you can still use your BTC or any other cryptocurrency to make payments safely over the blockchain. Here's the deal.
Crypto security cheat sheet
Botnets are huge networks of infected computers. Many black-hat hackers or crypto ransomware attackers resort to botnets to hack into your wallet and steal your coins. Once your device is infected, the botnet owner can dispose of your data as he or she pleases. Botnets are used to steal bitcoin wallet encryption, stream your screen live, and even mine bitcoins or altcoins. This black-hat mining activity can literally burn the CPU or GPU on your device by increasing the power input that it uses until it burns out.
Tip: Luckily, it is quite unlikely that you may be part of a botnet network given that most computer devices today are protected by standard antivirus and firewall software, which can rapidly catch or detect any malicious activity. However, if you notice that your computer becomes slower than usual, perhaps it's time you ran an antivirus scan. On top of that, always make sure to store your private data including passwords, your crypto wallet private key and the like in a so-called "cold wallet". In plain English, it's an offline and off-computer storage where all your wallet data is kept safely where no one else can reach it.
Viruses & ransomware
Viruses are quite common these days. They usually come as email attachments with suspiciously familiar names and a dodgy syntax. To give you a clue, '.exe' (executable) files are the type of files that black hats prefer, and the reason is quite simple – once clicked and the software starts running on your device, you can say 'good-bye' to your data privacy and your precious bitcoins for that matter. Plus, to make it less suspicious, hackers make it look like the emails carrying executable files come from someone you know, which encourages you to click and download them.
Sometimes, the virus may come in the form of a keylogger, which once it connects you to your bitcoin wallet by typing in your password, it gives hackers access to your wallet and transfer funds to their wallet in no time.
Another nefariously clever method of stealing bitcoins that hackers use is by keeping the malware dormant on the device that has been hacked into until the owner of that devices copies a bitcoin address. This action activates the malware, which immediately changes the address you intended to use to the hacker's and sends the funds to the hacker without you even knowing.
Next on our crypto security cheat sheet is bitcoin ransomware. Now this is incredibly sophisticated, and once you've got it, it will stay there forever, in most cases being virtually impossible to remove. Bitcoin ransomware is a type of "infection" which locks your computer and promises to unlock it provided that a certain amount of bitcoins is paid to a specific address. In all cases, hackers do unlock devices after the ransom has been paid. This combination of malware and ransom makes it extremely effective in extracting bitcoins.
Tip: Keep your data safe in an offline environment. Additionally, DO NOT EVER save your log-in credentials in your browser. This will help you keep phishers away from your data. Phishers are online stalkers or crawlers who are on the lookout for sensitive information such as emails, passwords, e-wallet addresses, which once they get hold of they will use in their best interest. Steer clear of websites that allow you to save your profile data, this is only a way to get your full information and then use it for their own purposes.
Be smart with your wallet
After all we've been talking so far, it almost goes without saying that you should use a strong, encrypted and easy-to-remember password on all your cryptocurrency wallet accounts. This password should typically consist of 15 characters including letter and number characters and symbols. On top of that, using a multifactor authentication system will keep your data secure. Usually, multifactor authentication systems require or allow you to choose a secondary or tertiary option to log in to your account, such as receiving a text message or an email with a unique code, a security question, a unique link, etc.
Clear your browsing history regularly, ideally use private browsing when accessing your crypto wallet and BOOKMARK YOUR WALLET ADDRESS and keep your private key safe at all times.
Ultimately, never download files with a funny syntax and name, even if they seem to be coming from a person you're in contact with, and never open emails coming from unknown senders.
Takeaway: Bitcoins and cryptos in general are exposed to cyber-threats and theft, but at the end of the day it is up to you to keep your wallet data protected. This is how you do it, and finally, YES, crypto payments are secure.
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