More and more people are looking to invest in cryptocurrencies as a result of bitcoin’s recent price surge, but by doing so they could become prime targets for cyber criminals.
Multiple cryptocurrency exchanges have been hacked in the past, resulting in the theft of thousands of bitcoin – which would be worth millions of dollars today.
What’s more, since bitcoin transactions are irreversible, if any of your holdings were to leave your wallet, you won’t simply be able to get a refund.
Fortunately, there are steps users can take to protect their bitcoin.
Security experts recommend storing them offline.
If you purchase bitcoin through an online exchange and choose to store them there too, your security lies in the hands of whichever service you use. If the exchange is hacked – something that isn’t uncommon – the currency you own could be stolen.
That’s because the exchange will hold users’ private keys, long strings of characters that grant access to people’s cryptocurrency holdings. If a hacker managed to get their hands on a private key, they’d be able to steal the bitcoin associated with it too.
“The ever increasing value of cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, makes them a very attractive target to cybercriminals, who use various methods to get their hands on them,” malware expert Alexey Malanov, of Kaspersky Lab, told The Independent.
“There have been several huge hacks of cryptocurrency exchanges in the past and the trend will only continue.”
He adds that bitcoin owners “are advised not to store their money on services”.
Users should instead store it offline, on a so-called “cold” wallet, and take care of their private keys themselves.