Some people had their crypto assets stolen, or had lost their passwords and can’t access their accounts anymore. If you use cryptocurrencies, it is more important than ever to stick to some proven safety measures.
Sometimes you can’t do much, especially if the hackers target a specific exchange or blockchain. But you should minimize the chances of hackers targeting you specifically and to keep your cryptocurrencies as safe as possible.
Most Internet or computer security techniques are not necessarily specific to the field of crypto, and you may be aware of most of these. In fact, the safety measures are similar to what you need to do with, for example, your Internet banking.
With safety, it’s a good idea to follow this fundamental principle:
Make yourself as difficult of a target as possible, so that you won’t be worth the effort for any hacker who would rather focus on someone more vulnerable.
Be proactive and protect yourself from potential hackers. The following points are things you need to consider when it comes to protecting your crypto assets.
Safe Crypto Wallet
It is an advantage to understand the types of crypto wallets. Choose and use a wallet that will protect your assets in the best possible way.
An online wallet (also called hot storage or hot wallet) is an online platform where the keys to your cryptocurrency are stored. The fundamental disadvantage is that you don’t own the keys to your wallet; these keys are online. With a myriad of other safer solutions, there is no point in using an online wallet.
If you buy a cryptocurrency on an exchange and leave it there, you are using a custodial wallet. In this case, the third party has your private keys. Unless you plan to do trading or use staking (a kind of term deposit in crypto) at this exchange, it is always recommended not to leave your assets there.
Using a hardware wallet is the most safe (also called cold storage), such as Trezor or Ledger. This way you store your cryptocurrencies in a wallet that is not always connected to the Internet. A hardware wallet can have physical buttons which no hacker can press or activate through remote access. This highest safety is not for free, but you will definitely appreciate it if you have a considerable amount in your cryptos.
A paper wallet is free and extremely safe since you write your private keys on a piece or several pieces of paper and store these in different locations. This solution is good for holding or “hodling” cryptocurrencies but it’s not suitable for using them for payments, trading, etc. A similar solution (but not free) is a steel/metal wallet where you engrave your private keys.
Desktop wallets are usually free and ready for Windows, Mac and Linux. These are very easy to use and are significantly safer since your private keys are stored on your own computer. Your coins can still be stolen in case your computer is hacked, which is possible, though unlikely. The large interface makes it very easy to make transactions.
A mobile wallet is probably the best solution for anybody starting with cryptocurrencies since you own your private keys to your crypto. On top of that, malware is less prominent on smartphones than on desktops. Mobile wallets also have added security features, such as fingerprint identification, 2FA authorization, and verification PINS. In case your smartphone breaks or you had it stolen, or lose it, you can get your balance back very easily – just install the same mobile wallet on a new device, using your private keys or recovery phrase. Some tips for good free mobile wallets:
Once you have more money in cryptocurrencies, you might want to upgrade to the safest solution by investing in a hardware wallet (e.g. Trezor).
In an online world, passwords are needed very often – to log into your e-mail account, social platform, exchange, etc. Some users underestimate the importance of safe passwords and have their accounts compromised.
Poor practices with passwords and login details:
- Your name, any name, any real word as a password.
- Your date of birth as a password.
- Simple password, such as “12345,” “abcdef,” “admin,” etc.
- The same password for several accounts.
A strong, safe password uses a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, digits, special characters, brackets, etc.
An example of a strong password:
You shouldn’t store your passwords and login details in unencrypted text files on your computer (such as DOC, DOCX, RTF, ODT, XLS, TXT, etc.). And it’s not the best idea to store them in your browser, either. You can keep all the passwords in a physical paper notepad, which is safe but not very practical. The best is to use a dedicated password manager software with encryption, backup (e.g. through free Dropbox service) and synchronization between devices – e.g. your desktop computer and your smartphone. Once you set up your master password, you have access to all your passwords of any length and complexity.
Some examples of quality password managers:
2FA (2-Factor Authentication, Google Authenticator) adds another layer of security to your login approach. A time-based one time 6-digit code is generated on your smartphone, which must be used within 30 seconds to log into your account together with your username and password.
Examples of 2FA apps:
It is highly recommended to use 2FA wherever this security feature is available. Authy has an advantage over some other 2FA alternatives since it backs up all your accounts to allow a simple reinstallation, if needed, and you can easily synchronize your accounts across multiple devices. Of course, you should store your Authy code in your password manager.
Operating System, Antivirus & Firewall Up to Date
Unless you are a computer geek and know exactly what you are doing, you should always have an up-to-date operating system. It’s a good idea to make sure your updates are active and running, and work properly.
As for the antivirus and firewall, there are many options to choose from, both free and paid. Again, it is important to always have these applications up to date. Only then can these add another layer of protection for your system.
Safer Internet Browsing
While using the Internet extensively, your computer can be open to all kinds of threats and issues, even if you are avoiding potentially troublesome websites. It’s also good to know that the average browser tracks and keeps your browsing data. You can enhance your safety online by using safer Internet browsers. This is even more important when, for example, accessing online crypto exchanges. Below are some better options currently available for private web browsing.
- Tor Browser – Thanks to Tor network and three-layer encryption, your data is anonymous and unreadable.
- Chromium – The best features of Chrome browser, with no tracking or selling of your personal information.
- Epic Browser – With one-click anonymizing proxy, secure search, free VPN, and no history keeping, it protects your privacy at every level.
- Brave Browser – Secure, private browser that blocks ads, trackers, cryptomining, etc.
- SRWare Iron Browser – Building on Chrome, with enhanced privacy and security features.
- Vivaldi – An open source, fast, private, secure browser, able to use Chrome’s extensions, with a handy built-in notepad.
- Globus VPN Browser – Free tool that removes censorship and blocks for your particular region.
Virtual Private Network
If you want to go one step further in protecting yourself online, consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This is a software aimed to protect your online privacy and make things difficult for hackers by anonymizing your location and all your traffic.
A VPN hides the origin of your traffic, establishing a tunnel into your service provider’s network and channeling all of your traffic through the service provider. This effectively hides your origin. Many of the service providers today allow you to choose your exit country for your VPN. This means that you can decide on what country you want your VPN connection to be established in.
For example, with Wi-Fi, you can never tell who is actually on that same Wi-Fi as you are. So if you send any sensitive data over these unencrypted channels, everyone else in the network can see those. VPN provides an easy remedy. When you establish a VPN connection, it encrypts all the traffic regardless of what resources you are using. So you don’t really have to worry about whether your connection is to a secured website or not. VPN is a simple and affordable solution to stay secure and anonymous online. But it is also very useful in other fields, as it can help you download torrents faster, access any streaming service, circumvent censorship, and more.
How VPN Helps
- Hides your IP address, which is fundamental to your privacy online; your city, country, and torrent downloads won’t be tied to your identity.
- Protects you on public Wi-Fi by encrypting your online data and securing your personal information e.g. when you use free Wi-Fi in restaurants or anywhere else.
- Unlocks blocked websites and bypasses censorship or geo-blocking by connecting to a VPN server in a different country.
- Makes you secure with online banking and crypto assets, thanks to strong encryption and malware filters.
- Enhances your privacy and security. You can access any content from anywhere.
- Block ads, trackers and malware.
Epic Browser already mentioned above offers a free VPN (with servers in 8 countries) on top of all the other safety features. So, this could be a good starting point if you want to familiarize yourself with a VPN. But you get what you pay for. Thus, quality VPNs come at a certain cost. Just a few tips to get you started:
- NordVPN – Over 5,000 servers in 59 countries.
- Hola VPN – Free and paid plans, with over 6,000 servers worldwide.
- Surfshark VPN – Over 1,700 servers in 63 countries; protect as many devices as you’d like at once.
- Windscribe – VPN with 10 GB of free data per month and 10 free servers.
It’s a good idea to make use of special offers that are available from time to time.
Crypto Safety Fundamentals
Prevention is better than a cure, which you know very well. So, if you haven’t started already, start with at least these fundamental steps to enhance your safety with crypto online today:
- Choose a password manager and upgrade all the login details to your accounts to strong passwords.
- Install a mobile crypto wallet (or invest into a hardware wallet), and save your private keys securely.
- Decide on a 2FA app and add this layer of security everywhere you can.
- Keep your operating system, antivirus and firewall up to date.
- Start using a safer browser.
- Consider trying a VPN.
What to Do to Stay Safe With Crypto Online
If you put to use what was covered here, you will be a much less interesting target for a potential hacker and miles ahead of many other users when it comes to safety. True, the options mentioned above are by no means exhaustive. To enhance your safety online, you can also use a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or a Sandbox, and other methods for more advanced users. Also, keep in mind that it is next to impossible to name the number one or the very best solution in any of the above-mentioned categories, so it is a good idea to conduct further research into the options that suit your personal needs best. Only you can decide what will give you and your crypto assets the best protection online. No matter what, start improving your online safety right now. As everybody knows, a stitch in time saves nine. Thus, in the long run, these safety measures can save you a lot of time and worries.