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Guide to Storing Crypto

There are many methods of storing and holding cryptocurrencies at your disposal, and as a crypto investor, you will likely use several.

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Technically speaking, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are digital assets that are never “stored” on any system or device. A cryptocurrency “wallet” simply stores and protects the private key that proves your ownership and allows you to move assets on the blockchain.

Cryptocurrency Wallets

A cryptocurrency wallet is a software that stores your public and private keys and allows you to transact and hold cryptocurrencies. The public key is like an address you share. Your private key is like a password only you should know. Anyone with your private key can move the bitcoin, so it’s important to keep this secure.

Your wallet address is derived from the public key, but they are not the same. The wallet must be compatible with the cryptocurrency you are attempting to send to it. Sending the wrong kind of cryptocurrency into the wrong type of wallet could result in the permanent loss of your funds.

What is Bitcoin?

The first and premier digital currency

What it is DeFi?

Complete decentralized finance ecosystem

What is Ethereum?

A smart contract digital currency platform

Cryptocurrency Glossary

Alt coins and tokens

What is Blockchain?

Immutable data recording open ledger system

Custodial v.s Non-custodial Wallets

One way to categorize wallets is by who controls the private keys. With a non-custodial wallet, you have sole control over your private keys. Having a non-custodial wallet is like being your own bank; there is no need to trust a third-party. While this might seem like an easy and secure way to store bitcoin, billions of dollars in crypto were lost this way, and there is no recourse. 

If you are not ready to be your own bank, a custodial wallet might be the right solution. In this case, you are trusting a third-party with the private keys to secure your crypto. Most crypto exchanges and brokerages, like Coinberry, are examples of a custodial wallet. Picking a custodian solution that is reputable and secure is crucial. At Coinberry, we have partnered with the Gemini Trust Company LLC™ to keep the majority of customer funds in institutional-grade cold storage.

Hot v.s Cold Wallets

A hot wallet is online and connected to the internet. This type of wallet allows you to access, purchase, and transact crypto instantly. Because the public and private keys are on the internet, it is vulnerable to malicious hacks and malware on your device. An example is a web wallet hosted on an exchange. You should always add extra layers of security to your account in case your login is compromised. We’ve madndatory for all Coinberry users, but it’s always good practice not to leave a large amount of crypto in hot wallets. 

Cold wallets or cold storage means taking your crypto offline, limiting you only to receive crypto. Keeping your wallet address offline makes it less vulnerable to malicious actors. Long-term investors who hold a substantial amount of bitcoin tend to use cold storage. A hardware wallet is a popular cold storage wallet that lets you keep your private keys on a secure and portable device the size of a USB key. You can move crypto from a cold wallet by plugging the wallet into a computer and signing a transaction. Your private keys will be kept offline the entire time.

Choosing a Wallet

Now that you have a basic understanding of the different wallets, the next step is to formulate a crypto storage strategy that will most likely involve multiple wallets. We’ve made a step-by-step plan and checklist on securing your cryptocurrency.

strong digital security

A virtual wallet

This cloud-based cryptocurrency wallet offers investors unrestricted access to all wallet features from any location.

Pro
  • No need to carry around credit or debit cards to make purchases. Aside from a more seamless transaction experience, there’s no risk of losing a physical payment card.

Con
  • While virtual wallets offer a great deal of safety, cryptocurrency users are slow in embracing cloud-based wallets, as fears of data breaches and digital wallet theft remain widespread.

strong digital security

Mobile wallets

These digital wallets do what they say – allow cryptocurrency traders to manage their storage needs via mobile app.

Pro
  • Security is far and away the best “pro” among mobile wallets. Mobile wallets don’t require any credit or debit card numbers, PIN digits, or smart phone numbers. Without those data points in play, mobile payment fraudsters are severely limited in playing their trade against crypto traders using mobile wallets.

Con
  • Technology inefficiencies can hamper mobile wallet users, and that’s not deal for cryptocurrency traders who need to execute and confirm a trade immediately. That may not be possible with data storage limits, low or no battery situations, and no internet access in remote areas, among other technology barriers.

strong digital security

Hardware wallets

Hardware wallets work especially well with internet-based cryptocurrency interfaces and offer safety and security measures via online storage, far away from prying eyes and unscrupulous data thieves.

Pro
  • Aside from being able to store multiple cryptocurrencies on a single device, hardware wallets offer robust security for users, especially as hardware wallets are immune to malware, viruses, and other data access threats common on other cryptocurrency wallets.

Con
  • Hardware wallets can be cost-prohibitive with prices of wallets ranging from $200-to-$600. That’s significantly higher than the cost of other crypto wallets.

strong digital security

Desktop wallets

A desktop wallet accommodates cryptocurrency investors who use their desktop computers, laptops or tablet computers to manage their trading portfolios.

Pro
  • Since you’re executing cryptocurrency trades via a home or business desktop computer, there’s less of a chance of data theft than with mobile trading.

Con
  • Besides the virus issue, if you’re away from your desktop computer, you can’t make a crypto trade.

strong digital security

Paper wallets

With a paper wallet, a cryptocurrency user can have key wallet features like a private or public key automatically generated and made available for users to print out in hard copy form.  

Pro
  • Again, security is the most important feature of paper wallets for storing cypto. With a paper wallet, there is no digital interface. Not vulnerable to data hackers.

Con
  • If you lose your wallet, you likely lose your private key, QR code and other critical cryptocurrency trading information.

A checklist to securing your crypto

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to keeping your bitcoin secure. The key is to find the sweet spot where the security level matches your technical ability and usage needs. Knowing there are always ways to make it harder for someone to get your bitcoin can make it hard to accept any security solution.

So how do you create a security protocol that works for you? Below is a security checklist that will work for most investors.

Buy and Sell on Trusted Platforms 

Canadians know far too well about the perils of using a fraudulent exchange. When buying and selling, look for platforms that are regulated and compliant. In Canada, exchanges or brokerages should be FINTRAC registered and PIPEDA compliant. Do some research on the company’s security protocols and ensure you are satisfied with all the measures they have put in place to keep your crypto secure.

Secure All your Accounts

Having a strong password just doesn’t cut it anymore. Data breaches are rampant, and hackers can bypass your password altogether by gaining access to your cellphone through common attacks in the crypto community. For this reason, SMS two-factor authentication is should never be relied on to secure your account. 

Here are three things you can do right now to protect your accounts:

• Use a fresh email when signing up for crypto platforms - make sure it has not been and is not public in anyway
• Enable Two-Factor Authentication on all of your accounts using an authenticator App
• Install an anti-malware software like Malwarebytes on all your devices

Move your Crypto into Cold Storage

Even if your exchange and brokerage accounts are secure, it’s always good practice to move most of your crypto holdings into cold storage. You can move crypto assets from Coinberry into cold storage by withdrawing to a cold wallet address. Double-check the address when you are sending large amounts. 

While there are many cold storage methods, having a hardware wallet is one of the most popular options. After purchasing your hardware wallet, there are a few components to keep in mind:

Public Address - where you send or receive crypto
Private Keys - protected in the hardware wallet and allows you to send crypto 
Seed Phrase - 12 to 24 words that will recover your wallet 
PIN - a string of numbers to shield your device from unauthorized physical access

You should only purchase hardware wallets directly from the manufacturer and never trust an eBay seller since they can access your seed phrase. Recently, Ledger, one of the largest hardware wallet providers, was hacked. Although no crypto was compromised, the leaked personal information made their customers more prone to phishing and theft.

Secure your Cold Storage

The responsibility for safeguarding your cold storage falls entirely on you, so if your wallet and seed phrases are lost or stolen, there is no recourse. 

Being your own bank is not easy, so:

• Separate Your Funds - If you have multiple hard wallets, don’t keep them in the same location and separate your seed phrases too
• Secure your seed - Secure the location you are keeping your seed phrase, so it’s protected against theft and natural disasters 
• Never write your seed down on a computer or publish it on the internet
• Back up your wallets often
• Keep it hush - Don’t boast about your crypto holdings, not even to family and friends .  on all your devices.Here are three things you can do right now to protect your accounts:

Inheritance Plan

With bitcoin’s valuation soaring, it’s more important than ever to set a plan in place so your heirs can benefit. The dilemma with crypto inheritance is that to keep your holdings secure, you should ideally be the only person with complete access. So how do you keep it safe but also allow for inheritance?

• Consult an estate lawyer with crypto experience
• Keep a paper record of your assets and where they are stored, including: exchange logins, wallets and backups, and crypto devices
• Educate your heirs on how to handle and secure everything
• Do a test run every year to make sure everything goes smoothly

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