Personal Security & Cryptocurrency

Earlier this year, I attended Blockchain Week in Los Angeles, CA, at Crypto Invest Summit (CIS) 2019. Walking around, I met many of my favorite Crypto YouTubers for the first time and sat in on several excellent talks on the space and future of Cryptocurrency.

While I had a great time something was bothering me, it was a brief interaction between a presenter at one of the booths and an older person who was interested in setting up a wallet. I won’t name the wallet/project because it doesn’t matter; these are issues that affect us all.

I watched the entire interaction, which is why I remember it so vividly. The presenter was talking to the person about Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and all the things that their wallet could do (send/receive, exchange, etc.). The person was interested and wanted to download the wallet.

After showing them how to download the wallet, the presenter showed them how to set up their account. Abruptly, the presenter began to walk away. The person asked, “is that it?” and the presenter said yes and walked away.

Sitting alone, the person began looking at their screen with a confused look on their face. I asked them, “are you okay, can I help?” Sitting down next to them, they showed me their phone and on their screen was the list of words that would restore their wallet.

“What do I do now?” they asked. I took out a piece of paper and a pen and gave it to the person. “Okay, so what you need to do is write down these words, they are the only way to restore your wallet in case your phone is lost or stolen.” I held the phone as they wrote down the words. “Now, keep this paper is a safe place, it’s very important that no one else sees this”.

The reason I bring this story up is that not only do we need to show new users how to use Crypto and their wallets, but we also need to make sure we are telling them about how to secure their investment. Not only that but have a careless attitude can quickly turn people off to Cryptocurrency as there is a learning process that needs to go into getting started. If a new user comes to believe it’s too complicated, they may say never mind, and that is not what we need to grow the space.

So, let’s go back to the interaction between the presenter and the new user. After downloading the wallet, the items that should be covered next (at the bare minimum) should have been:

  1. Create a secure password for your wallet
  2. Write down recovery words/phrases
  3. Enable 2FA if available

Creating a secure password, one completely different from any other that you would have used is key to personal cybersecurity. I use a password manager to generate random passwords.

Writing down the recovery words/phrases is Crypto 101 for most of us but people being people, this step is overlooked as users want to get to the good stuff about Crypto and start sending/receiving and exchanging. But, it is crucial to understand that the recovery seed is the only way to get their funds back if something happens to their phone, also if they want to use an associated desktop wallet, they are going to need that seed to sync the two wallets generally.

Enabling 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) is a great way to add additional security to a wallet and accounts in general. Facial recognition, a 4 to 10 digit passcode, a third party password generator, a text message authorization code can help keep your funds safe with an added layer of protection.

The one thing that the Crypto space should avoid is the hubris that comes with knowing something that others do not and being unwilling to take the time to teach new users. One of my favorite movies is the 1995 film Hackers. It was long of fun but short on accuracy but still a great time. One character named Joey wanted desperately to be a part of the group, wanted to be a hacker but all he got back from the group was “that’s stupid, you need to do a righteous hack, you don’t hack a bank across state lines!” All the while, not once, did anyone provide any tips or pointers, they just expected him to know.

We need to avoid this type of behavior in Crypto. It does not help anyone to have a persistent ignorance in the space. We need fewer people talking about Lambos and more people explaining how to use Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency.

If we are going to be our own banks, we need to start acting like it.

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