How to Stay Safe on the Internet: A Guide for Crypto Users
Learn how to stay safe online as a cryptocurrency user.
So much of what we do now happens online. As a result, it’s never been as important to ensure how and what you do in the digital realm isn’t putting your offline existence at any kind of risk from criminals and scammers.
This is even more important for anyone using crypto — especially when you are transferring, trading, or storing digital assets. The decentralized nature of the space means there is no authority you can turn to if things go wrong.
So follow our guide to what the risks are and how best to keep yourself (and your crypto) safe when online.
Top Internet Risks: What Are They & How Can You Protect Yourself
One of the biggest risks to you (and your crypto) when using the internet is the security of the network you’re connecting to.
At home, you go online via a router you installed, set the password for, and that encrypts your data — so you can be confident there is a level of protection from hackers trying to access your network (and your crypto assets). But when out and about, your online activity is exposed.
Using public WiFi without thinking means someone can now get between that network and your device.
Don’t be like that guy in Austria who had more than $100k in Bitcoin stolen from him while logged on to a restaurant’s public wireless network. If you’re doing anything with crypto, then wait until you’re on your home network to guarantee maximum safety.
If you must absolutely take action while connected to a public WiFi, then make sure you are using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) while doing so.
This extra layer of tech helps to hide your internet protocol (IP) address and make your browsing activities invisible to the network owner, such as a coffee shop or a hotel. Moreover, it encrypts your data when connected to a public network so that cybercriminals are unable to intercept and interfere.
Be sure to scrutinize the VPN provider you go with carefully. Less scrupulous companies may be selling browser data. So be sure to do your research and pay for a trusted VPN service — an absolutely crucial step to take if you want to stay safe.
If you do limit your crypto activity to the safety of your home network, then note you are only as secure as your most vulnerable point. With the Internet of Things (IoT) now commonplace, it means a multitude of ‘smart’ home appliances, from fridges to doorbells to thermostats, will be connected to your network.
IoT devices give hackers additional entry points to your system.
And if a casino can get hacked via an IoT fish-tank thermometer, as it happened in North America, then don’t discount hackers finding their way through a similar access point in your own home.
Most routers come with the option of setting up second ‘guest’ networks. Do the sensible thing and put all your IoT devices on one network, and keep a dedicated and protected network just for your laptop or mobile. This way, anything you do with your crypto is sealed off from the other home network (thereby providing you with an extra level of reassurance).
Be sure to extend this principle to the software you use — not just the hardware you’re running — which is to say it’s good practice to use a clean separate browser for all your crypto activity and then a different one for everything else.
Use Chrome as your default, for example, but Firefox when doing anything with crypto. This protects you from falling foul of any malicious plugins that may be out there.
If you want to go further, you can purchase additional firewall software to ensure your devices aren’t accessed without authorization.
Then, when it comes to your router itself, be sure to regularly update its firmware. Manufacturers will constantly update the software to patch vulnerabilities. It’s shocking how often this is overlooked. The same applies to all your apps and operating systems — make sure you always update to ensure you have the latest security patches and are not allowing a known vulnerability to exist for hackers to compromise you or your crypto.
Safe Surfing: Best Practices
So, you’ve abandoned the idea of sending crypto while in a cafe. You’ve secured your home network. You’ve installed a VPN. You’ve firewalled your key devices from your IoT appliances. You use one browser for crypto and another for everything else. And you’ve updated all applications, operating systems, and routers with the latest security patches.
You’re safe now, right?
The biggest problem from here is actually going to be you. Because you are only as safe as your online behavior. That’s not a hardware or a software issue — that’s a you issue.
The best place to start is with your passwords. Too many people have overly simple passwords or, worse still, the same password for multiple accounts.
Always use a unique and complex password — ideally 15 characters long and made up of lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The problem with reusing a password for everything is that if one single site you use it for is hacked, then cybercriminals now have what they need to access, say, your Binance exchange trading account.
It may seem impossible to come up with and then remember all these different passwords so you’ll most likely want to use a password manager, which can generate necessarily complex passwords while encrypting and storing them for you.
The next step is to use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). This is a system that requires you to pass another layer of security — beyond just your username and password — before you are logged in.
A specific example is the Google Authenticator app, which you download to your phone, and then bind to a certain login. The Google Authenticator app regularly updates with one-time-only passcodes that you will be asked for when trying to sign in. This way, even if a hacker has your details, they would also need your phone and Google Authenticator to pass the 2FA protection. Don’t be put off by the extra step — it’s the best way to secure your accounts and assets.
Sticking exclusively to HTTPS as opposed to HTTP websites adds another layer of safer browsing as HTTPS sites encrypt your connection, hindering malicious third parties from collecting data sent from server to browser.
The other big thing to look out for is phishing. This is where cybercriminals will try and trick you into revealing sensitive information or clicking a dodgy link, URL or file by sending you an email, text, or similar pretending to be from a trusted company or service.
For example, you may get an email that looks like it’s from Trust Wallet asking you to take action, but it’s actually from a fraudster attempting to hack you or get you to install malware. Something to look out for is to check the sender matches your safe list of contacts. Fraudsters may set up emails such as [email protected], hoping careless users won’t notice the misspelling in the email address.
In the world of crypto, you have to be even more alert. Scammers will copy people’s identities in an attempt to extract money from the gullible.
For example, if there is a crypto project you like there will be a Telegram group where you can keep track of news. This offers rich pickings to scam artists who will create fake groups or support accounts using perfectly copied branding and admin identities to then message people offering things like cheap tokens.
Some even build entirely fake but official-looking websites to try and lure you into making a bad decision. Examples of fake Trust Wallet phishing sites would be www.trustwället.com and trustwallet.com.erc20-tokens-gift.com. Take the bait, and any assets you send them are lost. Always be skeptical of anyone who messages you first. And if something seems too good to be true, then it’s most likely a scam.
The final thing to mention is to be extremely cautious about oversharing information or revealing too much about your identity. Crypto is a social space, but scammers often feed on that sense of community.
So protect yourself by using pseudonyms and throwaway accounts for any chat groups you join on the likes of Discord and Telegram and never share information that can be used against you. You would never walk around saying how much is in your bank account so treat your crypto assets in the same way — with great caution and care.
Securely Store Your Crypto Using Trust Wallet
Follow the advice above and you will be reducing the risk to both you and your crypto when online. However, keep in mind that you are only as strong as your weakest link — whether that’s hardware, software, or your own behavior and decisions.
Be sure to download Trust Wallet to keep your crypto safe. Trust Wallet is the most trusted and secure wallet that has been carefully designed to protect your holdings. The fact that none of your personal data is ever collected or stored means your identity is protected too.