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In finance, an exchange is a forum or platform for trading commodities, derivatives, securities or other financial instruments. The principle concern of an exchange is to allow trading between parties to take place in a fair and legally compliant manner, as well as to ensure that pricing information for any instrument traded on the exchange is reliable and coherently delivered to exchange participants. In the cryptocurrency space exchanges are online platforms that allow users to trade cryptocurrencies or digital currencies for fiat money or other cryptocurrencies. They can be centralized exchanges such a Binance, or decentralized exchanges such as IDEX. Most cryptocurrency exchanges allow users to trade different crypto assets with BTC or ETH after having already exchanged fiat currency for one of those cryptocurrencies. Coinbase and Kraken are the main avenue for fiat money to enter into the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Function and History
Crypto exchanges can be market-makers that take bid/ask spreads as a commission on the transaction for facilitating the trade, or more often charge a small percentage fee for operating the forum in which the trade was made. Most crypto exchanges operate outside of Western countries, enabling them to avoid stringent financial regulations and the potential for costly and lengthy legal proceedings. These entities will often maintain bank accounts in multiple jurisdictions, allowing the exchange to accept fiat currency and process transactions from customers all over the globe.
The concept of a digital asset exchange has been around since the late 2000s and the following initial attempts at running digital asset exchanges foreshadows the trouble involved in attempting to disrupt the operation of the fiat currency baking system. The trading of digital or electronic assets predate Bitcoin’s creation by several years, with the first electronic trading entities running afoul of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in late 2004. Companies such as Goldex, SydneyGoldSales, and Ozzigold, shut down voluntarily after ASIC found that they were operating without an Australian Financial Services License. E-Gold, which exchanged fiat USD for grams of precious metals in digital form, was possibly the first digital currency exchange as we know it, allowing users to make instant transfers to the accounts of other E-Gold members. At its peak in 2006 E-Gold processed $2 billion worth of transactions and boasted a user base of over 5 million people.
Here we will give a brief overview of the features and operational history of the more popular and higher volume exchanges because these are the platforms to which newer traders will be exposed. These exchanges are recommended to use because they are the industry standard and they inspire the most confidence.
Owned and operated by iFinex Inc, the cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex was the largest Bitcoin exchange on the planet until late 2017. Headquartered in Hong Kong and based in the US Virgin Island, Bitfinex was one of the first exchanges to offer leveraged trading (“Margin trading allows a trader to open a position with leverage. For example — we opened a margin position with 2X leverage. Our base assets had increased by 10%. Our position yielded 20% because of the 2X leverage. Standard trades are traded with leverage of 1:1”) and also pioneered the use of the somewhat controversial, so-called “stable coin” Tether (USDT).
Binance is an international multi-language cryptocurrency exchange that rose from the mid-rank of cryptocurrency exchanges to become the market dominating behemoth we see today. At the height of the late 2017/early 2018 bull run, Binance was adding around 2 million new users per week! The exchange had to temporarily disallow new registrations because its servers simply could not keep up with that volume of business. After the temporary ban on new users was lifted the exchange added 240,000 new accounts within two hours.
Have you ever thought whats the role of the cypto exchanges? The answer is simple! There are several different types of exchanges that cater to different needs within the ecosystem, but their functions can be described by one or more of the following: To allow users to convert fiat currency into cryptocurrency. To trade BTC or ETH for alt coins. To facilitate the setting of prices for all crypto assets through an auction market mechanism. Simply put, you can either mine cryptocurrencies or purchase them, and seeing as the mining process requires the purchase of expensive mining equipment, Cryptocurrency exchanges can be loosely grouped into one of the 3 following exchange types, each with a slightly different role or combination of roles.
Have you ever thought about what are the types of Crypto exchanges?
- Traditional Cryptocurrency Exchange: These are the type that most closely mimic traditional stock exchanges where buyers and sellers trade at the current market price of whichever asset they want, with the exchange acting as the intermediary and charging a small fee for facilitating the trade. Kraken and GDAX are examples of this kind of cryptocurrency exchange. Fully peer-to-peer exchanges that operate without a middleman include EtherDelta, and IDEX, which are also examples of decentralized exchanges.
- Cryptocurrency Brokers: These are website or app based exchanges that act like a Travelex or other bureau-de-change. They allow customers to buy or sell crypto assets at a price set by the broker (usually market price plus a small premium). Coinbase is an example of this kind of exchange.
- Direct Trading Platform: These platforms offer direct peer-to-peer trading between buyers and sellers, but don’t use an exchange platform in doing so. These types of exchanges do not use a set market rate; rather, sellers set their own rates. This is a highly risky form of trading, from which new users should shy away.
To understand how an exchange functions we need only look as far as a traditional stock exchange. Most all the features of a cryptocurrency exchange are analogous to features of trading on a traditional stock exchange. In the simplest terms, the exchanges fulfil their role as the main marketplace for crypto assets of all kinds by catering to buyers or sellers. These are some definitions for the basic functions and features to know: Market Orders: Orders that are executed instantly at the current market price. Limit Order: This is an order that will only be executed if and when the price has risen to or dropped to that price specified by the trader and is also within the specified period of time. Transaction fees: Exchanges will charge transactions fees, usually levied on both the buyer and the seller, but sometimes only the seller is charged a fee. Fees vary on different exchanges though the norm is usually below 0.75%. Transfer charges: The exchange is in effect acting as a sort of escrow agent, to ensure there is no foul play, so it might also charge a small fee when you want to withdraw cryptocurrency to your own wallet.
Regulatory Environment and Evolution
Cryptocurrency has come a long way since the closing down of the Silk Road darknet market. The idea of crypto currency being primarily for criminals, has largely been seen as totally inaccurate and outdated. In this section we focus on the developing regulations surrounding the cryptocurrency asset class by region, and we also look at what the future may hold.
The United States of America
A coherent uniform approach at Federal or State level has yet to be implemented in the United States. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network published guidelines as early as 2013 suggesting that BTC and other cryptos may fall under the label of “money transmitters” and thus would be required to take part in the same Anti-money Laundering (AML) and Know your Client (KYC) procedures as other money service businesses. At the state level, Texas applies its existing finance laws. And New York has instituted an entirely new licensing system.
The European Union
The EU’s approach to cryptocurrency has generally been far more accommodating overall than the United States, partly due to the adaptable nature of pre-existing laws governing electronic money that predated the creation of Bitcoin. As with the USA, the EU’s main fear is money laundering and criminality. The European Central Bank (ECB) categorized BTC as a “convertible decentralized currency” and advised all central banks in the EU to refrain from trading any cryptocurrencies until the proper regulatory framework was put in place. A task force was then set up by the European Parliament in order to prevent and investigate any potential money laundering that was making use of the new technology.
Likely future regulations for cryptocurrency traders within the European Union and North America will probably consist of the following proposals: The initiation of full KYC procedures so that users cannot remain fully anonymous, in order to prevent tax evasion and curtail money laundering. Caps on payments that can be made in cryptocurrency, similar to caps on traditional cash transactions. A set of rules governing tax obligations regarding cryptocurrencies Regulation by the ECB of any companies that offer exchanges between cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies It is less likely for other countries to follow the Chinese approach and completely ban certain aspects of cryptocurrency trading. It is widely considered more progressive and wiser to allow the technology to grow within a balanced accommodative regulatory framework that takes all interests and factors into consideration. It is probable that the most severe form of regulation will be the formation of new governmental bodies specifically to form laws and exercise regulatory control over the cryptocurrency space. But perhaps that is easier said than done. It may, in certain cases, be incredibly difficult to implement particular regulations due to the anonymous and decentralized nature of crypto.
Behavior of Cryptocurrency Investors by Demographic
Due to the fact that cryptocurrency has its roots firmly planted in the cryptography community, the vast majority of early adopters are representative of that group. In this section we cover the basic structure of the cryptocurrency market cycle and the makeup of the community at large, as well as the reasons behind different trading decisions.
The Cryptocurrency Market Cycle
Bitcoin leads the bull rally. FOMO (Fear of missing out) occurs, the price surge is a constant topic of mainstream news, business programs cover the story, and social media is abuzz with cryptocurrency chatter. Bitcoin reaches new All Timehigh (ATH) Market euphoria is fueled with even more hype and the cycle is in full force. There is a constant stream of news articles and commentary on the meteoric, seemingly unstoppable rise of Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s price “stabilizes”, In the 2017 bull run this was at or around $14,000. A number of solid, large market cap altcoins rise along with Bitcoin; ETH & LTC leading the altcoins at this time. FOMO comes into play, as the new ATH in market cap is reached by pumping of a huge number of alt coins.
Top altcoins “somewhat” stabilize, after reaching new all-time highs. The frenzy continues with crypto success stories, notable figures and famous people in the news. A majority of lesser known cryptocurrencies follow along on the upward momentum. Newcomers are drawn deeper into crypto and sign up for exchanges other than the main entry points like Coinbase and Kraken. In 2017 this saw Binance inundated with new registrations. Some of the cheapest coins are subject to massive pumping, such as Tron TRX which saw a rise in market cap from $150 million at the start of December 2017 to a peak of $16 billion! At this stage, even dead coins or known scams will get pumped. The price of the majority of cryptocurrencies stabilize, and some begin to retract. When the hype is subsiding after a huge crypto bull run, it is a massive sell signal. Traditional investors will begin to give interviews about how people need to be careful putting money into such a highly volatile asset class. Massive violent correction begins and the market starts to collapse. BTC begins to fall consistently on a daily basis, wiping out the insane gains of many medium to small cap cryptos with it. Panic selling sweeps through the market. Depression sets in, both in the markets, and in the minds of individual investors who failed to take profits, or heed the signs of imminent collapse. The price stagnation can last for months, or even years.
The Influence of Age upon Trading
Did you know? Cryptocurrencies have been called “stocks for millennials” According to a survey conducted by the Global Blockchain Business Council, only 5% of the American public own any bitcoin, but of those that do, an overwhelming majority of 71% are men, 58% of them are between the ages of 18 and 35, and over half of them are minorities. The same survey gauged public attitude toward the high risk/high return nature of cryptocurrency, in comparison to more secure guaranteed small percentage gains offered by government bonds or stocks, and found that 30% would rather invest $1,000 in crypto. Over 42% of millennials were aware of cryptocurrencies as opposed to only 15% of those ages 65 and over. In George M. Korniotis and Alok Kumar’s study into the effects of aging on portfolio management and the quality of decisions made by older investors, they found “that older and experienced investors are more likely to follow “rules of thumb” that reflect greater investment knowledge. However, older investors are less effective in applying their investment knowledge and exhibit worse investment skill, especially if they are less educated and earn lower income.”
Geographic Influence upon Trading
One of the main drivers of the apparent seasonal ebb and flow of cryptocurrency prices is the tax situation in the various territories that have the highest concentrations of cryptocurrency holders. Every year we see an overall market pull back beginning in mid to late January, with a recovery beginning usually after April. This is because “Tax Season” is roughly the same across Europe and the United States, with the deadline for Income tax returns being April 15th in the United States, and the tax year officially ending the UK on the 6th of April. All capital gains must be declared before the window closes or an American trader will face the powerful and long arm of the IRS with the consequent legal proceedings and possible jail time. Capital gains taxes around the world vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but there are often incentives for cryptocurrency holders to refrain from trading for over a year to qualify their profits as long term gain when they finally sell. In the US and Australia, for example, capital gains are reduced if you bought cryptocurrency for investment purposes and held it for over a year. In Germany if crypto assets are held for over a year then the gains derived from their sale are not taxed. Advantages like this apply to individual tax returns, on a case by case basis, and it is up to the investor to keep up to date with the tax codes of the territory in which they reside.
2013 Bull run vs 2017 Bull run price Analysis
In late 2016 cryptocurrency traders were faced with the task of distinguishing between the beginnings of a genuine bull run and what might colorfully be called a “dead cat bounce” (in traditional market terminology). Stagnation had gripped the market since the pull-back of early 2014. The meteoric rise of Bitcoin’s price in 2013 peaked with a price of $1,100 in November 2013, after a year of fantastic news on the adoption front with both Microsoft and PayPal offering BTC payment options. It is easy to look at a line going up on a chart and speak after the fact, but at the time, it is exceeding difficult to say whether the cat is actually climbing up the wall, or just bouncing off the ground. Here, we will discuss the factors that gave savvy investors clues as to why the 2017 bull run was going to outstrip the 2013 rally. Hopefully this will help give insight into how to differentiate between the signs of a small price increase and the start of a full scale bull run. Most importantly, Volume was far higher in 2017. As we can see in the graphic below, the 2017 volume far exceeds the volume of BTC trading during the 2013 price increase. The stranglehold MtGox held on trading made a huge bull run very difficult and unlikely.
Fraud & Immoral Activity in the Private Market
Ponzi Schemes Cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes will be covered in greater detail in Lesson 7, but we need to get a quick overview of the main features of Ponzi schemes and how to spot them at this point in our discussion. Here are some key indicators of a Ponzi scheme, both in cryptocurrencies and traditional investments: A guaranteed promise of high returns with little risk. Consistentflow of returns regardless of market conditions. Investments that have not been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Investment strategies that are a secret, or described as too complex. Clients not allowed to view official paperwork for their investment. Clients have difficulties trying to get their money back. The initial members of the scheme, most likely unbeknownst to the later investors, are paid their “dividends” or “profits” with new investor cash. The most famous modern-day example of a Ponzi scheme in the traditional world, is Bernie Madoff’s $100 billion fraudulent enterprise, officially titled Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. And in the crypto world, BitConnect is the most infamous case of an entirely fraudulent project which boasted a market cap of $2 billion at its peak.
What are the Exchange Hacks?
The history of cryptocurrency is littered with examples of hacked exchanges, some of them so severe that the operation had to be wound up forever. As we have already discussed, incredibly tech savvy and intelligent computer hackers led by Alexander Vinnik stole 850000 BTC from the MtGox exchange over a period from 2012–2014 resulting in the collapse of the exchange and a near-crippling hammer blow to the emerging asset class that is still being felt to this day. The BitGrail exchange suffered a similar style of attack in late 2017 and early 2018, in which Nano (XRB) was stolen that was at one point was worth almost $195 million. Even Bitfinex, one of the most famous and prestigious exchanges, has suffered a hack in 2016 where $72 million worth of BTC was stolen directly from customer accounts.
Hardware Wallet Scam Case Study
In late 2017, an unfortunate character on Reddit, going by the name of “moody rocket” relayed his story of an intricate scam in which his newly acquired hardware wallet was compromised, and his $34,000 life savings were stolen. He bought a second hand Nano ledger into which the scammers own recover seed had already been inserted. He began using the ledger without knowing that the default seed being used was not a randomly assigned seed. After a few weeks the scammer struck, and withdrew all the poor HODLer’s XRP, Dash and Litecoin into their own wallet (likely through a few intermediary wallets to lessen the very slim chances of being identified).
Hardware Wallet Scam Case Study Social Media Fraud
Many gullible and hapless twitter users have fallen victim to the recent phenomenon of scammers using a combination of convincing fake celebrity twitter profiles and numerous amounts of bots to swindle them of ETH or BTC. The scammers would set up a profile with a near identical handle to a famous figure in the tech sphere, such as Vitalik Buterin or Elon Musk. And then in the tweet, immediately following a genuine message, follow up with a variation of “Bonus give away for the next 100 lucky people, send me 0.1 ETH and I will send you 1 ETH back”, followed by the scammers ether wallet address. The next 20 or so responses will be so-called sockpuppet bots, thanking the fake account for their generosity. Thus, the pot is baited and the scammers can expect to receive potentially hundreds of donations of 0.1 Ether into their wallet. Many twitter users with a large follower base such as Vitalik Buterin have taken to adding “Not giving away ETH” to their username to save careless users from being scammed.
It also must be recognized that market manipulation is taking place in cryptocurrency. For those with the financial means i.e. whales, there are many ways in which to control the market in a totally immoral and underhanded way for your own profit. It is especially easy to manipulate cryptos that have a very low trading volume. The manipulator places large buy orders or sell walls to discourage price action in one way or the other. Insider trading is also a significant problem in cryptocurrency, as we saw with the example of blatant insider trading when Bitcoin Cash was listed on Coinbase.
Examples of ICO Fraudulent Company Behavior
In the past 2 years an astronomical amount of money has been lost in fraudulent Initial Coin Offerings. The utmost care and attention must be employed before you invest. We will cover this area in greater detail with a whole lesson devoted to the topic. However, at this point, it is useful to look at the main instances of ICO fraud. Among recent instances of fraudulent ICOs resulting in exit scams, 2 of the most infamous are the Benebit and PlexCoin ICOs which raised $4 million for the former and $15 million for the latter. Perhaps the most brazen and damaging ICO scam of all time was the Vietnamese Pincoin ICO operation, where $660million was raised from 32,000 investors before the scammer disappeared with the funds. In case of smaller ICO “exit scamming” there is usually zero chance of the scammers being found. Investors must just take the hit. We will cover these as well as others in Lesson 7 “Scam Projects”.
Signposts of Fraudulent Actors
The following factors are considered red flags when investigating a certain project or ICO, and all of them should be considered when deciding whether or not you want to invest. Whitepaper is a buzzword Salad: If the whitepaper is nothing more than a collection of buzzwords with little clarity of purpose and not much discussion of the tech involved, it is overwhelmingly likely you are reading a scam whitepaper.
Signposts of Fraudulent Actors §2
No Code Repository: With the vast majority of cryptocurrency projects employing open source code, your due diligence investigation should start at GitHub or Sourceforge. If the project has no entries, or nothing but cloned code, you should avoid it at all costs. Anonymous Team: If the team members are hard to find, or if you see they are exaggerating or lying about their experience, you should steer clear. And do not forget, in addition to taking proper precautions when investing in ICOs, you must always make sure that you are visiting authentic web pages, especially for web wallets. If, for example, you are on a spoof MyEtherWallet web page you could divulge your private key without realizing it and have your entire portfolio of Ether and ERC-20 tokens cleaned out.
Methods to Avoid falling Victim
Avoiding scammers and the traps they set for you is all about asking yourself the right questions, starting with: Is there a need for a Blockchain solution for the particular problem that a particular ICO is attempting to solve? The existing solution may be less costly, less time consuming, and more effective than the proposals of a team attempting to fill up their soft cap in an ICO. The following quote from Mihai Ivascu, the CEO of Modex, should be kept in mind every time you are grading an ICO’s chances of success: “I’m pretty sure that 95% of ICOswill not last, and many will go bankrupt. ….. not everything needs to be decentralized and put on an open source ledger.”
Methods to Avoid falling Victim §2 Do I Trust These People with My Money, or Not?
If you continue to feel uneasy about investing in the project, more due diligence is needed. The developers must be qualified and competent enough to complete the objectives that they have set out in the whitepaper.
Is this too good to be true?
All victims of the well-known social media scams using fake profiles of Vitalik Buterin, or Bitconnect investors for that matter, should have asked themselves this simple question, and their investment would have been saved. In the case of Bitconnect, huge guaranteed gains proportional to the amount of people you can get to sign up was a blatant pyramid scheme, obviously too good to be true. The same goes for Fake Vitalik’s offer of 1 ether in exchange for 0.1 ETH.
Selling Cryptocurrencies, Several reasons for selling with the appropriate actions to take:
If you are selling to buy into an ICO, or maybe believe Ether is a safer currency to hold for a certain period of time, it is likely you will want to make use of the Ether pair and receive Ether in return. Obviously if the ICO is on the NEO or WANchain blockchain for example, you will use the appropriate pair. -Trading to buy into another promising project that is listing on the exchange on which you are selling (or you think the exchange will experience a large amount of volume and become a larger exchange), you may want to trade your cryptocurrency for that exchange token. -If you believe that BTC stands a good chance of experiencing a bull run then using the BTC trading pair is the suitable choice. -If you believe that the market is about to experience a correction but you do not want to take your gains out of the market yet, selling for Tether or “tethering up” is the best play. This allows you to keep your locked-in profits on the exchange, unaffected by the price movements in the cryptocurrency markets,so that you can buy back in at the most profitable moment. -If you wish to “cash out” i.e. sell your cryptocurrency for fiat currency and have those funds in your bank account, the best pair to use is ETH or BTC because you will likely have to transfer to an exchange like Kraken or Coinbase to convert them into fiat. If the exchange offers Litecoin or Bitcoin Cash pairs it could be a good idea to use these for their fast transaction time and low fees.
Knowing when and how to sell, as well as strategies to inflate the value of your trade before sale, are important skills as a trader of any product or financial instrument. If you are satisfied that the sale itself of the particular amount of a token or coin you are trading away is the right one, then you must decide at what price you are going to sell. Exchanges exercise their own discretion as to which trading “pairs” they will offer, but the most common ones are BTC, ETH, BNB for Binance, BIX for Bibox etc., and sometimes Tether (USDT) or NEO. As a trader, you decide which particular cryptocurrency to exchange depending on your reason for making that specific trade at that time.
Methods of Sale
Market sell/Limit sell on exchange: A limit sell is an order placed on an exchange to sell as soon as (also specifically only if and when) the price you specified has been hit within the time limit you select. A market order executes the sale immediately at the best possible price offered by the market at that exact time. OTC (or Over the Counter) selling refers to sale of securities or cryptocurrencies in any method without using an exchange to intermediate the trade and set the price. The most common way of conducting sales in this manner is through LocalBitcoins.com. This method of cryptocurrency selling is far riskier than using an exchange, for obvious reasons.
The influence and value of your Trade
There are a number of strategies you can use to appreciate the value of your trade and thus increase the Bitcoin or Ether value of your portfolio. It is important to disassociate yourself from the dollar value of your portfolio early on in your cryptocurrency trading career simply because the crypto market is so volatile you will end up pulling your hair out in frustration following the real dollar money value of your holdings. Once your funds have been converted into BTC and ETH they are completely in the crypto sphere. (Some crypto investors find it more appropriate to monitor the value of their portfolio in satoshi or gwei.) Certainly not limited to, but especially good for beginners, the most reliable way to increase your trading profits, and thus the overall value and health of your portfolio, is to buy into promising projects, hold them for 6 months to a year, and then reevaluate. This is called Long term holding and is the tactic that served Bitcoin HODLers quite well, from 2013 to the present day. Obviously, if something comes to light about the project that indicates a lengthy set back is likely, it is often better to cut your losses and sell. You are better off starting over and researching other projects. Also, you should set initial Price Points at which you first take out your original investment, and then later, at which you take out all your profits and exit the project. That should be after you believe the potential for growth has been exhausted for that particular project.
Another method of increasing the value of your trades is ICO flipping. This is the exact opposite of long term holding. This is a technique in which you aim for fast profits taking advantage of initial enthusiasm in the market that may double or triple the value of ICO projects when they first come to market. This method requires some experience using smaller exchanges like IDEX, on which project tokens can be bought and sold before listing on mainstream exchanges. “Tethering up” means to exchange tokens or coins for the USDT stable coin, the value of which is tethered to the US Dollar. If you learn, or know how to use, technical analysis, it is possible to predict when a market retreatment is likely by looking at the price movements of BTC. If you decide a market pull back is likely, you can tether up and maintain the dollar value of your portfolio in tether while other tokens and coins decrease in value. The you wait for an opportune moment to reenter the market.
Market Behavior in Different Time Periods
The main descriptors used for overall market sentiment are “Bull Market” and “Bear Market”. The former describes a market where people are buying on optimism. The latter describes a market where people are selling on pessimism. Fun (or maybe not) fact: The California grizzly bear was brought to extinction by the love of bear baiting as a sport in the mid 1800s. Bears were highly sought after for their intrinsic fighting qualities, and were forced into fighting bulls as Sunday morning entertainment for Californians. What has this got to do with trading and financial markets? The downward swipe of the bear’s paws gives a “Bear market” its name and the upward thrust of a Bull’s horns give the “Bull Market” its name. Most unfortunately for traders, the bear won over 80% of the bouts. During a Bull market, optimism can sometimes grow to be seemingly boundless, volume is rising, and prices are ascending. It can be a good idea to sell or rebalance your portfolio at such a time, especially if you have a particularly large position in one holding or another. This is especially applicable if you need to sell a large amount of a relatively low-volume holding, because you can then do so without dragging the price down by the large size of your own sell order.
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What a Blockchain Wallet is? What is its purpose?
Find the answer after reading this article.
The public key is the digital code you give to someone that wants to transfer ownership of a unit of cryptocurrency to you; and a private key is what you need to be able to unlock your own wallet to transfer a unit of a cryptocurrency to someone else. The encoding of information within a wallet is done by the private and public keys. That is the main component of the encryption that maintains the security of the wallet. Both keys function in simultaneous encryption systems called symmetric and asymmetric encryption. The former, alternatively known as private key encryption, makes use of the same key for encryption and decryption. The latter, asymmetric encryption, utilizes two keys, the public and private key, wherein a message-sender encrypts the message with the public key, and the recipient decodes it with their private key. The public key uses asymmetric algorithms that convert messages into an unreadable format. A person who possesses a public key can encrypt the message for a specific receiver.
Methods of wallet access vary depending on the type of wallet being used. Various types of currency wallets on an exchange will normally be accessed via the exchange’s entrance portal, normally involving a combination of a username/password and optionally, 2FA (Two factor authentication, which we explain in more detail later). Whereas hardware wallets need to be connected to an internet enabled device, and then have a pin code entered manually by the user in possession of the hardware wallet in order for access to be gained. Phone wallets are accessed through the device on which the wallet application has been downloaded. Ordinarily, a passcode and/or security pattern must be entered before entry is granted, in addition to 2FA for withdrawals.
Satoshi Nakamoto built the Satoshi client which evolved into Bitcoin in 2009. This software allowed users to create wallets and send money to other addresses. However, it proved to be a nightmarish user experience, with many transactions being sent to incorrect addresses and private keys being lost. The MtGox (Magic the Gathering Online exchange, named after the original intended use of the exchange) incident, which will be covered in greater detail later, serves as a reminder of the dangers present in the cryptosphere regarding security, and the need to constantly upgrade your defenses against all potential hacks. The resulting loss of 850k BTC is a still unresolved problem, weighing heavily on the victims and the markets at large. This caused a huge push for a constantly evolving and improving focus on security. Exchanges that developed later, and are thus considered more legitimate and secure, such as Gemini and Coinbase, put a much greater emphasis on vigilance as a direct result of the MtGox hacking incident. We also saw the evolution of wallet security into the physical realm with the creation of hardware wallets, most notable among them the Ledger and Trezor wallets.
Types of Wallets & Storage Methods
The simplest way to sift through the dozens of cryptocurrency storage methods available today, is to divide them up into digital and non-digital, software and hardware wallets. There are also less commonly used methods of storage of private keys, like paper wallets and brain wallets. We will examine them all at least briefly, because in the course of your interaction with cryptocurrencies and Blockchain technology, it is essential to master all the different types of hardware and software wallets. Another distinction must be made between hot wallets and cold wallets. A hot wallet is one that is connected to the internet, and a cold wallet is one that is not. Fun fact: The level below cold storage, deep cold storage has just recently been implemented by the Regal RA DMCC, a subsidiary of an internationally renowned gold trading company licensed in the Middle East. After having been granted a crypto trading license, Regal RA launched their “deep cold” storage solution for traders and investors, which offers the ability to store crypto assets in vaults deep below the Almas Tower in Dubai. This storage method is so secure that at no point is the vault connected to a network or the internet; meaning the owners of the assets can be sure that the private keys are known only to the rightful owners.
Lets take a quick look at specific features and functionality of varieties of crypto wallets. Software wallets: wallet applications installed on a laptop, desktop, phone or tablet. Web Wallets: A hot wallet by definition. Web Wallets are accessible through the web browser on your phone or computer. The most important feature to recognize about any kind of web wallet, is that the private keys are held and managed by a trusted third party. MyEtherWallet is the most commonly used non-exchange web wallet, but it can only be used to store Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens.
Though the avenue of access to MEW is through the web, it is not strictly speaking a web wallet, though this label will suffice for the time being. The MEW site gives you the ability to create a new wallet so you can store your ETH yourself. All the data is created and stored on your CPU rather than their servers. This makes MEW a hybrid kind of web wallet and desktop wallet. Exchange Wallets: A form of Web Wallet contained within an exchange. An exchange will hold a wallet for each individual variety of cryptocurrency you hold on that exchange. Desktop Wallets: A software program downloaded onto your computer or tablet hard drive that usually holds only one kind of cryptocurrency. The Nano Wallet (Formerly Raiwallet) and Neon wallet for storage of NEO and NEP-5 tokens are notable examples of desktop wallets Phone Wallets: These are apps downloaded onto a mobile phone that function in the same manner as a desktop wallet, but actually can hold many different kinds of cryptocurrency. The Eidoo Wallet for storing Ethereum and its associated tokens and Blockchain Wallet which currently is configured to hold BTC, ETH and Bitcoin Cash, are some of the most widely used examples.
Hardware wallets — LedgeTrezoAlternatives
Hardware wallets are basically physical pathways and keys to the unique location of your crypto assets on the Blockchain. These are thought to be more secure than any variety of web wallet because the private key is stored within your own hard wallet, an actual physical device. This forcibly removes the risk your online wallet, or your exchange counter party, might be hacked in the same manner as MtGox. In hardware wallet transactions, the wallet’s API creates the transaction when a user requests a payment. An API is a set of functions that facilitates the creation of applications that interact and access features or data of an operating system. The hardware then signs the transaction, and produces a public key, which is given to the network. This means the signing keys never leave the hardware wallet. The user must both enter a personal identification number and physically press buttons on the hardware wallet in order to gain access to their Blockchain wallet address through this method, and do the same to initiate transfers.
Possibly the safest form of cryptocurrency storage in terms of avoiding hacking, Paper Wallets are an offline form of crypto storage that is free to set up, and probably the most secure way for users, from beginners to experts, to hold on to their crypto assets. To say it simply, paper wallets are an offline cold storage method of storing cryptocurrency. This includes actually printing out your public and private keys on a piece of paper, which you then store and save in a secure place. The keys are printed in the form of QR codes which you can scan in the future for all your transactions. The reason why it is so safe is that it gives complete control to you, the user. You do not need to worry about the security or condition of a piece of hardware, nor do you have to worry about hackers on the net, or any other piece of malware. You just need to take care of one piece of paper!
Real World Historical Examples of Different Wallet Types
Web Wallet: Blockchain.info Brief mechanism & Security Blockchain.info is both a cryptocurrency wallet, supporting Bitcoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin cash, and also a block explorer service. The wallet service provided by blockchain.info has both a Web Wallet, and mobile phone application wallet, both of which involve signing up with an email address, and both have downloadable private keys. Two Factor Authentication is enabled for transfers from the web and mobile wallets, as well as email confirmation (as with most withdrawals from exchanges). Phone Wallet: Eidoo The Eidoo wallet is a multi-currency mobile phone app wallet for storage of Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens. The security level is the standard phone wallet level of email registration, confirmation, password login, and 2 factor authentication used in all transfers out. You may find small volumes of different varieties of cryptocurrencies randomly turning up in your Eidoo wallet address. Certain projects have deals with individual wallets to allow for “airdrops” to take place of a particular token into the wallet, without the consent of the wallet holder. There is no need to be alarmed, and the security of the wallet is not in any way compromised by these airdrops.
The NEON wallet sets the standard for web wallets in terms of security and user-friendly functionality. This wallet is only designed for storing NEO, Gas, and NEP-5 tokens (Ontology, Deep Brain Chain, RPX etc.). As with all single-currency wallets, be forewarned, if you send the wrong cryptocurrency type to a wallet for which it is not designed, you will probably lose your tokens or coins. MyEtherWallet My Ether Wallet, often referred to as MEW, is the most widely used and highly regarded wallet for Ethereum and its related ERC-20 tokens. You can access your MEW account with a hardware wallet, or a different program. Or you can also get access by typing or copying in your private key. However, you should understand this method is the least safe way possible,and therefore is the most likely to result in a hack. Hardware: TrezoLedger Brief History Mechanism and Security A hardware wallet is a physical key to your on-chain wallet location, with the private keys contained within a secure sector of the device. Your private key never leaves your hardware wallet. This is one of the safest possible methods of access to your crypto assets. Many people feel like the hardware wallet strikes the right balance between security, peace of mind, and convenience. Paper Wallet Paper wallets can be generated at various websites, such as https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com/
. They enable wallet holders to store their private keys totally offline, in as secure a manner as is possible.
Real World Example — Poor Practices
MtGox Hack history effects and security considerations MtGox was the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world before it was hacked in 2014. They were handling over 70% of BTC transactions before they were forced to liquidate their business. The biggest theft of cryptocurrency in history began when the private keys for the hot wallets were stolen in 2011 from a wallet.dat file, possibly by hacking, possibly by a rogue employee. Over the course of the next 3 years the hot wallets were emptied of approximately 650000 BTC. The hacker only needed wallet.dat file to access and make transfers from the hot wallet, as wallet encryption was only in operation from the time of the Bitcoin 0.4.0 release on Sept 23rd 2011. Even as the wallets were being emptied, the employees at Mt Gox were apparently oblivious to what was taking place. It seems that Mt Gox workers were interpreting these withdrawals as large transfers being made to more secure wallets. The former CEO of the exchange, Mark Karpeles, is currently on trial for embezzlement and faces up to 5 years in prison if found guilty. The Mt Gox hack precipitated the acceleration of security improvements on other exchanges, for wallets, and the architecture of bitcoin itself. As a rule of thumb, no small-to-medium scale crypto holders should use exchange wallets as a long-term storage solution. Investors and experienced traders may do this to take advantage of market fluctuations, but exchange wallets are perhaps the most prone to hacking, and storing assets on exchanges for an extended time is one of the riskiest ways to hold your assets.
In a case strikingly similar to the MtGox of 2011–2014, the operators of the BitGrail exchange “discovered” that approximately 17 million XRB ($195 million worth in early 2018) were missing. The operators of the exchange were inexplicably still accepting deposits, long after they knew about the hack. Then they proceeded to block withdrawals from non-EU users. And then they even requested a hard fork of the code to restore the funds. This would have meant the entire XRB Blockchain would have had to accept all transactions from their first “invalid” transaction that were invalid, and rollback the ledger. The BitGrailexchange attempted to open operations in May 2018 but was immediately forced to close by order of the Italian courts. BitGrail did not institute mandatory KYC (Know your customer) procedures for their clients until after the theft had been reported, and allegedly months after the hack was visible. They also did not have 2 factor authentication mandatory for withdrawals. All big, and very costly mistakes.
Case Study: Good Practice Binance, the Attempted Hack
During the 2017 bull run, China-based exchange Binance quickly rose to the status of biggest altcoin exchange in the world, boasting daily volumes that surged to over $4 billion per day in late December. Unfortunately, this success attracted the attention of some crafty hackers. These hackers purchased domain names that were confusingly similar to “binance.com”. And then they created sufficiently convincing replica websites so they could phish traders for their login information. After obtaining this vital info, the scammers created API keys to place large buy orders for VIAcoin, an obscure, low volume digital currency. Those large buy orders spiked VIA’s price. Within minutes they traded the artificially high-priced VIA for BTC. Then they immediately made withdrawal requests from the hacked BTC wallets to wallets outside of the exchange. Almost a perfect fait accompli! But, Binance’s “automating risk management system” kicked in, as it should, and all withdrawals were temporarily suspended, resulting in a foiled hacking attempt.
Software Wallets Web/Desktop/Phone/Exchange Advantages and Limitations
As we said before, it is inadvisable to store crypto assets in exchange wallets, and, to a lesser extent, Web Wallets. The specific reason we say that is because you need to deliver your private keys into the hands of another party, and rely on that website or exchange to keep your private key, and thus your assets, safe. The advantages of the less-secure exchange or web wallets, are the speed at which you can transfer assets into another currency, or into another exchange for sale or for arbitrage purposes. Despite the convenience factor, all software wallets will at some point have been connected to the internet or a network. So, you can never be 100% sure that your system has not been infected with malware, or some kind of keylogging software, that will allow a third party to record your passwords or private keys. How well the type of storage method limits your contact with such hazards is a good way to rate the security of said variety of wallet. Of all the software wallets, desktop and mobile wallets are the most secure because you download and store your own private key, preferably on a different system. By taking the responsibility of private key storage you can be sure that only one person has possession of it, and that is you! Thereby greatly increasing the security of your crypto assets. By having their assets in a desktop wallet, traders can guard their private key and enjoy the associated heightened security levels, as well keep their assets just one swift transfer away from an exchange.
Hardware Wallets Advantages and Limitations
We briefly touched on the features and operation of the two most popular hardware wallets currently on the market, the Ledger and Trezor wallets. Now it will be helpful to take a closer look into the pros and cons of the hardware wallet storage method. With hardware wallets, the private keys are stored within a protected area of the microcontroller, and they are prevented from being exported out of the device in plain text. They are fortified with state-of-the-art cryptography that makes them immune to computer viruses and malware. And much of the time, the software is open source, which allows user validation of the entire performance of the device. The advantages of a hardware wallet over the perhaps more secure paper wallet method of crypto storage is the interactive user experience, and also the fact that the private key must at some stage be downloaded in order to use the paper wallet. The main disadvantage of a hardware wallet is the time-consuming extra steps needed to transfer funds out of this mode of storage to an exchange, which could conceivably result in some traders missing out on profits. But with security being the main concern of the vast majority of holders, investors and traders too, this slight drawback is largely inconsequential in most situations.
Paper Wallets Advantages and Limitations
Paper wallets are thought by some to be the safest way to store your crypto assets, or more specifically, the best method of guarding the pathways to your assets on the Blockchain. By printing out your private key information, the route to your assets on the Blockchain is stored 100% offline (apart from the act of printing the private key out, the entire process is totally offline). This means that you will not run the risk of being infected with malware or become the victim of keylogging scams. The main drawback of using paper wallets is that you are in effect putting all your eggs in one basket, and if the physical document is destroyed, you will lose access to your crypto assets forever.
Key things to keep in mind about your Wallet Security: Recovery Phrases/Private Key Storage/2FA/Email Security
Recovery phrases are used to recover the on-chain location for your wallet with your assets for hardware wallets like ledgers and Trezors that have been lost. When you purchase a new ledger for example, you just have to set it up again by entering the recovery phrase into the display and the lost wallets will appear with your assets intact. Private key storage is of paramount importance to maintain the safety of your on-chain assets! This should be done in paper wallet form, or stored offline on a different computer, or USB device, from the one you would typically use to connect to the 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) sometimes known as “two step authentication”. This feature offers an extra security layer when withdrawing funds from cryptocurrency wallets. A specialized app, most commonly Google Authenticator, is synced up to the exchange to provide a constantly changing code. This code must be entered within a short time window to initiate transfers, or to log into an exchange, if it has also been enabled for that purpose.
You must always consider the level of fees, or the amount of Gas, that will be needed to carry out the transaction. In times of high network activity Gas prices can be quite high. In fact, in December 2017 network fees became so high that some Bitcoin transactions became absolutely unfeasible. But that was basically due to the anomalous network congestion caused by frantic trading of Bitcoin as it was skyrocketing in value. When copying wallet addresses, double check and triple check that they are correct. If you make a mistake and enter an incorrect address, it is most likely your funds will be irretrievably lost; you will never see those particular assets again. Also check that you haven’t input the address of another one of your wallets that is designed to hold a different variety of cryptocurrency. You would similarly run the very great risk of losing your funds forever. Or, at the very least, if you have sent the wrong crypto to a large exchange wallet, for example on Coinbase, maybe you could eventually get those funds back, but it would still entail a long and unenjoyable wait.
How to Monitor Funds
There are two ways to monitor you funds and your wallets. The first is by searching for individual wallet addresses on websites specifically designed to let you view all the transactions on a particular Blockchain. The other is to store a copy of your wallet contents on an application that tracks the prices of all cryptocurrencies. Blockchain.info is the block explorer for Bitcoin, and it allows you to track all wallet movements so you can view your holdings and all the historical transactions within the wallet. The Ethereum blockchain’s block explorer is called Ether scanner, and it functions in the same way. There is a rival to Ether scanner produced by the Jibrel Network, called JSearch which will be released soon. JSearch will aim to offer a more streamlined and faster search method for Ethereum blockchain transactions. There are many different kinds of block explorer for each individual crypto currency, including nanoexplorer.io for Nano (formerly Rai Blocks) and Neotracker for NEO. If you simply want to view the value of your portfolio, the Delta and Blockfolio apps allow you to easily do that. But they are not actually linked to your specific wallet address, they just show price movements and total value of the coins you want to monitor.
That’s not all! You can learn how to transfer and monitor the funds in and out of your wallet by clicking on the link.
To be continued! UBAI.co
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