This comprehensive guide will help beginner crypto investors understand the best security practices for protecting their assets from hacks when they buy and sell Bitcoin
Since the launch of Bitcoin in 2009, the cryptocurrency industry has been on a tedious uphill mission to achieve legitimacy. Traditional financial institutions and governments are not keen to support cryptocurrencies because they are worried that crypto might reduce their influence on the global economy.
Beyond the lack of government support, the stories you’ve heard about how millions of dollars are stolen in crypto hacks are probably making you afraid to buy and sell Bitcoin. There’s also the common knowledge that stolen Bitcoin can’t be retrieved.
While critics tend to exaggerate these depressing stories about hacks, there’s no denying the fact that people lose their money in crypto hacks. This guide provides four insights on how you can buy and sell Bitcoin while minimizing the risk that your funds will be stolen.
Recent crypto hacks and stolen funds by the numbers
The Mt GOX hack of 2014 was the most iconic crypto hack that brought the vulnerability of the crypto market to the limelight. In that hack, about 850,000 Bitcoins estimated at $7.2B in today’s prices were stolen. Since the hack happened in 2014, users haven’t had respite, refunds, or closure and the most recent news suggests that a lawsuit might help users recover about $2B out of stolen funds. Some other high-profile crypto hacks and their prices at the current BTC price around $8500 are listed below;
- October 2011: Bitcoin7 lost 5000 BTC valued at $42.5M in today’s money to Russian hackers
- September 2012: Bitfloor lost 24,000 BTC valued at $240M in a data breach
- December 2012: BitMarket lost 18,788 BTC valued at $159M
- December 2012: Bitcoinica lost a total of 102,101 BTC valued at $867M in three different hacks throughout the year
- October 2014: Bitpay exec transferred a combined 5000 BTC valued at $42.5M in a phishing attack
- January 2015: Bitstamp lost about 19,000 BTC valued at $161.5M in a hot wallet hack
- August 2016: Bitfinex reported the theft of 119,756BTC now valued at $1.01B when its multi-signature accounts were hacked
- January 2018: Coincheck lost $534M worth of NEM coins stolen from its single hot wallet
- June 2018: Coinrail lost $37M worth of Pundi X and Astoncoin tokens in a hack
- May 2019: Binance reported the loss of 7,000 BTC valued at $59.5M in a cyberattack. To Binance’s credit, it refunded the stolen funds from its reserves.
4 ways to buy and sell crypto without losing funds to hacks
The main gospel of cryptocurrency is decentralization and the decentralization that it promotes suggests that individuals must proactively take up the responsibility of securing their funds. If you don’t want to be at the risk of theft when you buy and sell Bitcoin, below are 4 insights that could get you started in the right direction.
Beginners who seek to invest in crypto should use a custodial service
For beginner crypto investors, it might be somewhat difficult to understand the concepts of hot wallets, paper wallets, and cold storage. It might be in your best interest to buy and sell Bitcoin using a custodial service until you can manage your Bitcoin transactions, wallet addresses, and private keys without making mistakes.
Skrill is one of the most reliable and trustworthy platforms that provides custodial services to people who want to buy and sell Bitcoin. Skrill, founded in 2001 has part of Paysafe Holdings UK Limited has almost 20 years of experience in providing simple, secure, and fast digital payment services. With Skrill, you can open a free account and deposit funds under two minutes. You can then locate its Crypto tab, select Bitcoin or other coins, enter how much Bitcoin you want to buy.
You don’t need to buy a full Bitcoin and Skrill allows you to buy fractions of a Bitcoin. Skrill then holds your cryptocurrency for you in its custodianship so that you don’t have to worry about managing private keys.
Another important point to note is that Skrill is not just another random crypto startup, it is part of an established group with annual revenues of $1.9 billion and it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 for the issuing of electronic money and payment instruments.
Experienced crypto investors might want to try out cold storage
If you have some experience with cryptocurrency or if you have some technical skills, you may want to take full responsibility for the security of your coins by putting them in cold storage. For cryptocurrencies, cold storage typically refers to any storage medium not connected to the Internet on which you store your private keys.
The most popular cold storage methods include hardware wallets, USB storage, desktop clients, and paper wallets. Hardware wallets are the most expensive while paper wallets are the cheapest. Hardware wallets and desktop clients provide you with seed phrases that could potentially help you recover your coins if you lose the wallets. Coins stored in paper wallets or USB sticks may not be recoverable if you lose the paper wallets or USB sticks. Desktop clients are somewhat intermediate but there’s the risk that the computer might be occasionally connected to the Internet.
If you buy and sell crypto is a day trader, choose your exchange wisely
Day traders typically buy and sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies many times per day as they attempt to profit from the short-term fluctuation in the prices of crypto assets. If you are a day trader, you’ll mostly keep your trading funds on the exchange on which you conduct your trading activities.
Crypto exchanges are competing for users; hence, you should be able to shop around for an exchange that will give you the highest level of reassurance about the security of your funds. You should logically choose an exchange that guarantees your deposits over an exchange on which deposits are not guaranteed. If the exchange opens itself to independent financial and security audits; it will probably protect user funds much better than an exchange that operates under layers of opacity and secrecy.
If you are not a day trader, there’s no reason to leave your coins in an exchange
If you are not an active trader, you shouldn’t hesitate to move your crypto assets away from an exchange wallet as soon as you buy the coins. If you must keep your coins in on an exchange, you should take advantage of standard security measures to protect your crypto accounts.
The first security measure is to have the bulk of your crypto assets in cold storage and only transfer your trading funds to the exchange when you are actively trading. You should also take advantage of security measures such as 2-factor authentication, IP binds, and withdrawal limits from unknown locations.
From a critical examination of the most prominent crypto hacks, the common features of successful hacks suggest that hackers tend to focus on user funds instead of user information. Hence, there’s a higher chance that a hack will be mostly targeted at exchanges and trading platforms rather than the account of individual users. It also seems that brokerage firms, custodial services, and digital asset platforms are not usually targeted in crypto hacks.
It’s also depressing to note that some illegitimate exchanges can steal user funds in exit scams, and they will then use the untenable defense that they were hacked. Irrespective of whether you are trading Bitcoin for short term gains or you are investing for the long term, you must take responsibility for the security of your crypto assets.
This is a contributed article
How has the online trading landscape changed in 2020?
By Dáire Ferguson, CEO, AvaTrade
This year has been all about change following the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent global economic downturn which has impacted nearly every aspect of personal and business life. The online trading world has been no exception to this change as volatility in the financial markets has soared.
Although the global markets have been on a rollercoaster for some time with various geopolitical tensions, the market swings that we have witnessed since March have undoubtedly been unlike anything seen before. While these are indeed challenging times, for the online trading community, the increased volatility has proven tempting for those looking to profit handsomely.
However, with the opportunity to make greater profits also comes the possibility to make a loss, so how has 2020 changed the online trading landscape and how can retail investors stay safe?
Interest rates offered by banks and other traditional forms of consumer investments have been uninspiring for some time, but with the current economic frailty, the Bank of England cut interest rates to an all-time low. This has left many people in search of more exciting and rewarding ways to grow their savings which is indeed something online trading can provide.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, it was widely reported that user numbers for online trading rocketed due to disappointing savings rates but also because the enforced lockdown gave more people the time to learn a new skill and educate themselves on online trading.
A volatile market certainly offers great scope for profit and new sources of revenue for those that are savvy enough to put their convictions to the test. However, where people stand the chance to profit greatly from market volatility, there is also the possibility to make a loss, particularly for those that are new to online trading or who are still developing their understanding of the market.
The sharp rise in online trading over lockdown paired with this year’s unpredictable global economy has led to some financial losses, but with a number of risk management tools now available this does not necessarily have to be the case.
Protect your assets
Although not yet widely available across the retail market, risk management tools are slowly becoming more prevalent and being offered by online traders as an extra layer of security for those seeking to trade in riskier climates.
There are a range of options available for traders, but amongst the common tools are “take profit” orders in conjunction with “stop loss” orders. A take profit order is a type of limit order that specifies the exact price for traders to close out an open position for a profit, and if the price of the security does not reach the limit price, the take profit order will not be fulfilled. A stop loss order can limit the trader’s loss on a security position by buying or selling a stock when it reaches a certain price.
Take profit and stop loss orders are good for mitigating risk, but for those that are new to the game or who would prefer extra support, there are even some risk management tools, such as AvaProtect, that provide total protection against loss for a defined period. This means that if the market moves in the wrong direction than originally anticipated, traders can recoup their losses, minus the cost of taking out the protection.
Not a day has gone by this year without the news prompting a change in the financial markets. Until a cure for the coronavirus is discovered, we are unlikely to return to ‘normal’ and the global markets will continue to remain highly volatile. In addition, later this year we will witness one of the most critical US presidential elections in history and the UK’s transition period for Brexit will come to an end. The outcome of these events may well trigger further volatility.
Of course, this may also encourage more people to dip their toes into online trading for a chance to profit. As more people take an interest and sign up to online trading platforms, providers will certainly look to increase or improve the risk management tools on offer to try and keep new users on board, and this could spell a new era for the online trading world.
By Paddy Osborn, Academic Dean, London Academy of Trading
Whether you’re negotiating a business deal, playing a sport or trading financial markets, it’s vital that you have a plan. Top golfers will have a strategy to get around the course in the fewest number of shots possible, and without this plan, their score will undoubtedly be worse. It’s the same with trading. You can’t just open a trading account and trade off hunches and hopes. You need to create a structured and robust plan of attack. This will not only improve your profitability, but will also significantly reduce your stress levels during the decision-making process.
In my opinion, there are four stages to any trading strategy.
S – Set-up
T – Trigger
E – Execution
M – Management
Good trading performance STEMs from a structured trading process, so you should have one or more specific rules for each stage of this process.
Before executing any trades, you need to decide on your criteria for making your trading decisions. Should you base your trades off fundamental analysis, or maybe political news or macroeconomic data? If so, then you need to understand these subjects and how markets react to specific news events.
Alternatively, of course, there’s technical analysis, whereby you base your decisions off charts and previous price action, but again, you need a set of specific rules to enable you to trade with a consistent strategy. Many traders combine both fundamental and technical analysis to initiate their positions, which, I believe, has merit.
What needs to happen for you to say “Ah, this looks interesting! Here’s a potential trade.”? It may be a news event, a major macro data announcement (such as interest rates, employment data or inflation), or a chart level breakout. The key ingredient throughout is to fix specific and measurable rules (not rough guidelines that can be over-ridden on a whim with an emotional decision). For me, I may take a view on the potential direction of an asset (i.e. whether to be long or short) through fundamental analysis, but the actual execution of the trade is always technical, based off a very specific set of rules.
To take a simple example, let’s assume an asset has been trending higher, but has stopped at a certain price, let’s say 150. The chart is telling us that, although buyers are in long-term control, sellers are dominant at 150, willing to sell each time the price touches this level. However, the uptrend may still be in place, since each time the price pulls back from the 150 level, the selling is weaker and the price makes a higher short-term low. This clearly suggests that upward pressure remains, and there’s potential to profit from the uptrend if the price breaks higher.
Once you’ve found a potential new trade set-up, the next step is to decide when to pull the trigger on the trade. However, there are two steps to this process… finger on trigger, then pull the trigger to execute.
Continuing the example above, the trigger would be to buy if the price breaks above the resistance level at 150. This would indicate that the sellers at 150 have been exhausted, and the buyers have re-established control of the uptrend. Also, it is often the case that after pause in a trend such as this, the pent-up buying returns and the price surges higher. So the trigger for this trade is a breakout above 150.
We have a finger on the trigger, but now we need to decide when to squeeze it. What if the price touches 150.10 for 10 seconds only? Has our resistance level broken sufficiently to execute the trade? I’d say not, so you need to set rules to define exactly how far the price needs to break above 150 – or for how long it needs to stay above 150 – for you to execute the trade. You’re basically looking for sufficient evidence that the uptrend is continuing. Of course, the higher the price goes (or the longer it stays above 150), the more confident you can be that the breakout is valid, but the higher price you will need to pay. There’s no perfect solution to this decision, and it depends on many things, such as the amount of other supporting evidence that you have, your levels of aggression, and so on. The critical point here is to fix a set of specific rules and stick to those rules every time.
Good trade management can save a bad trade, while poor trade management can turn an excellent trade entry into a loser. I could talk for days about in-trade management, since there are many different methods you can use, but the essential ingredient for every trade is a stop loss. This is an order to exit your position for a loss if the market doesn’t perform as expected. By setting a stop loss, you can fix your maximum risk on a trade, which is essential to preserving your capital and managing your overall risk limits. Some traders set their stop loss and target levels and let the trade run to its conclusion, while others manage their trades more actively, trailing stop losses, taking interim profits, or even adding to winning positions. No matter how you decide to manage each trade, it must be the same every time, following a structured and robust process.
The final step in the process is to review every trade to see if you can learn anything, particularly from your losing trades. Are you sticking to your trading rules? Could you have done better? Should you have done the trade in the first place? Only by doing these reviews will you discover any patterns of errors in your trading, and hence be able to put them right. In this way, it’s possible to monitor the success of your strategy. If your trades are random and emotional, with lots of manual intervention, then there’s no fixed process for you to review. You also need to be honest with yourself, and face up to your bad decisions in order to learn from them.
In this way, using a structured and robust trading strategy, you’ll be able to develop your trading skills – and your profits – without the stress of a more random approach.
Economic recovery likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair
By Rupert Thompson, Chief Investment Officer at Kingswood
Equity markets continued their upward trend last week, with global equities gaining 1.2% in local currency terms. Beneath the surface, however, the recovery has been a choppy affair of late. China and the technology sector, the big outperformers year-to-date, retreated last week whereas the UK and Europe, the laggards so far this year, led the gains.
As for US equities, they have re-tested, but so far failed to break above, their post-Covid high in early June and their end-2019 level. The recent choppiness of markets is not that surprising given they are being buffeted by a whole series of conflicting forces.
Developments regarding Covid-19 as ever remain absolutely critical and it is a mixture of bad and good news at the moment. There have been reports of encouraging early trial results for a new treatment and potential vaccine but infection rates continue to climb in the US. Reopening has now been halted or reversed in states accounting for 80% of the population.
We are a long way away from a complete lockdown being re-imposed and these moves are not expected to throw the economy back into reverse. But they do emphasise that the economic recovery, not only in the US but also elsewhere, is likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair.
Indeed, the May GDP numbers in the UK undid some of the optimism which had been building recently. Rather than bouncing 5% m/m in May as had been expected, GDP rose a more meagre 1.8% and remains a massive 24.5% below its pre-Covid level in February.
Even in China, where the recovery is now well underway, there is room for some caution. GDP rose a larger than expected 11.5% q/q in the second quarter and regained all of its decline the previous quarter. However, the bounce back is being led by manufacturing and public sector investment, and the recovery in retail sales is proving much more hesitant.
China is not just a focus of attention at the moment because its economy is leading the global upturn but because of the increasing tensions with Hong Kong, the US and UK. UK telecoms companies have now been banned from using Huawei’s 5G equipment in the future and the US is talking of imposing restrictions on Tik Tok, the Chinese social media platform. While this escalation is not as yet a major problem, it is a potential source of market volatility and another, albeit as yet relatively small, unwelcome drag on the global economy.
Government support will be critical over coming months and longer if the global recovery is to be sustained. This week will be crucial in this respect for Europe and the US. The EU, at the time of writing, is still engaged in a marathon four-day summit, trying to reach an agreement on an economic recovery fund. As is almost always the case, a messy compromise will probably end up being hammered out.
An agreement will be positive but the difficulty in reaching it does highlight the underlying tensions in the EU which have far from gone away with the departure of the UK. Meanwhile in the US, the Democrats and Republicans will this week be engaged in their own battle over extending the government support schemes which would otherwise come to an end this month.
Most of these tensions and uncertainties are not going away any time soon. Markets face a choppy period over the summer and autumn with equities remaining at risk of a correction.
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