Cryptocurrencies were among the few bright spots of the otherwise bleak 2020. Bitcoin alone saw its price climb by 500% over the course of the year — and judging from the data from early 2021, the trend isn’t about to change. Crypto adopters stand poised to make a killing, but they have to be careful: these new fortunes also bring increased risks.
It’s true that crypto is much safer than traditional currencies. The way the blockchain works makes it virtually impossible to brute-force the system, for example. But the truth is, hackers don’t need to crack this security shell to get to the delicious savings inside. Instead, they aim for the biggest chink in the armor — you.
Remember — you hold the keys to your crypto wallet. Your wallet’s private key identifies you as the real owner of the coins inside, while your account credentials for various exchange platforms let you buy and sell in your name. Anyone with access to this information can wreak havoc with your savings, potentially trading away your fortune in the blink of an eye.
Your online activities make you a target
The rapid rise in coin value made crypto wallets rich pickings for hackers. Potential victims are selected based on their online activities — what websites they visit, what they say over unencrypted communications, and what apps they use to access the internet.
Since this data traffic is not encrypted by default, others can potentially ‘listen in’ to what you’re doing. They’re not just seeing your crypto activities — they’re seeing everything you do online, from the shows you watch to the team you root for. Once they’ve studied your habits, criminals can concoct a convincing phishing attack to get to your information.
This goes double if you do any trading over public Wi-Fi, like at a café over lunch. These networks are rife with security loopholes and are notoriously easy to penetrate. Even accessing secure services becomes a risk, since you still reveal what website you’re visiting and your length of stay — information that can be very dangerous in the wrong hands.
VPNs keep the target off your back
You don’t need to go skinny dipping every time you want to surf the net. By using a VPN, you can shield your data traffic, letting you trade or mine without attracting any unwanted attention.
The way it works is simple. When you connect to a VPN service, your VPN application creates a secure encrypted ‘tunnel’ between your device and the internet. All outgoing data is encrypted and forwarded to a VPN server, where it’s decrypted and safely delivered to your destination. Anyone trying to get a sneak peek of what you’re doing would only see gibberish.
Furthermore, connecting to a VPN server hides your real IP address and thus changes your virtual location. This not only makes it much harder to glean information from your background, but also protects you from hacking or DDOS attacks targeting your IP address — the VPN server acts as a buffer, keeping you safe.
Finally, VPNs provide a very real extra layer of protection for your crypto trades. Most crypto operations are already encrypted, but many steps leading up to them are not. VPNs stop ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks, where hackers inject themselves into unencrypted data traffic to hijack access to secure portals.
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