In this guide I will take you through why and how to prepare your computer before installing cryptocurrency wallets so that your funds remain safe and private. Some of these steps may seem extreme but at the end of the day with cryptocurrencies you are the bank and taking responsibility for your computer means protecting your wealth as well.
If you are not familiar with what cryptocurrency wallets are then read my blog “Demystifying Cryptocurrency Wallets”
Why you should prepare your computer for Cryptocurrencies?
So you have invested a substantial amount of money into Cryptocurrencies? I’m sure you want them to remain safe and not stolen by anyone? This might sound like a rhetorical question but you would be amazed the amount of clients who assume just because their computer has the latest version of an antivirus program installed and a password, they don’t need to worry about their cryptocurrency wallets being hacked!
Cryptocurrencies are held in wallets on a computer like the free Exodus Wallet and these wallets are no different than all the other software programs and are based on computer code which may be vulnerable if not protected. Whilst its true that without the private key, password or seed for a wallet, the funds cannot be stolen, there are however malware, viruses and key logging software programs that could reveal the private key and therefore steal your funds.
Here is an example of how a trojan virus exposed and stole the funds from a cryptocurrency wallet:
Consider using a dedicated computer
You can pick up a cheap second hand computer these days which you can use as a dedicated machine for your cryptocurrency wallets. Computers that are used for surfing, work and pleasure activities are more likely to become infected with everything from viruses to ransomware.
Reset your computer before installing wallets
Either if you are using a software wallet or buying cryptocurrencies from an online exchange, you will be entering passwords on your computer. If you are using an existing computer to do this, how do you know that it is clean and free from viruses or keyloggers?
The only way you can be 100% sure your computer is clean is to reset it by formatting the hard drive and reinstall the operating system. This is true whether you are using Windows, Mac or Linux operating systems.
To protect clients from falling victim to being hacked, I only work with clients who have gone through this formatting process or who email me confirming they know the risks associated with not doing so.
Update your computer’s operating system
Ensuring that your computer is up to date and has the operating system’s latest updates installed is crucial. These days you will be prompted to install updates – make this your priority to do so!
Install Security protection software
I recommend you have the following software programs installed and regularly updated on your computer before using wallets:
|Windows||Avira Antivirus||Cleans adware & removes spyware|
|Windows||Ransome Free||Protects against 99% of ransomware strains|
|Windows||ADW Cleaner||Adware cleaner finds and removes unwanted programs and junkware|
|Apple Macintosh||Avira Antivirus||Cleans adware & removes spyware|
Encrypt your computer’s hard drive
Most people assume that a simple password protects the files and data on a computer if it is lost or stolen. This is not true and the only way to protect the contents of your computer is to encrypt the hard drive making the data unreadable to a would be hacker without an encryption key.
Apple Macintosh – Use in built FileVault or VeraCrypt
Linux – Use in built encryption when you install
Windows – Use in built “Bitlocker” or VeraCrypt
If you do not encrypt your computer’s hard drive, it can be moved to another computer and the contents of the drive easily read!
Install Browser Security plugins
Some cryptocurrency wallets are browser based which also need protecting from hackers. I recommend only using the Brave browser which has security plugins built in. If you are using other browsers then you must install the following plugins:
Badger Security – Blocks spying ads and invisible trackers
Https Everywhere – Protect you against eavesdropping and tampering with the contents of a website
Ublock origin – Blocks pop up adds (like with YouTube) and stops trackers
Create an Administrator Account
All computer operating systems work on permissions and you only want changes to your computer taking place when you authorize them. This is why I recommend having two users on your computer, namely yourself and an administrator – the administrator is authorised to make changes and you are not. When a program or process needs to make changes, your computer will prompt you for the password of the Administrator which you can enter rather than blindly clicking “YES” without a password.
Never manage cryptocurrencies using a public Wi-fi
If you are sat in a cafe or hotel how secure is the connection you are using? How do you know if the router has been updated with the latest firmware? How do you know a would be hacker isn’t eavesdropping on what you are doing?
Unless it’s your own network that you are personally responsible for why would you risk managing your cryptocurrencies on it?
Use a VPN connection at all times
I’ve been travelling for a year in South America so I am forced to use public wifi networks. One way in which you can prevent would be hackers on any internet connection you use from eavesdropping is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The VPN service will tunnel your information to their servers and encrypt it before sending the information onto the rest of the internet.
I have been using Private Internet Access for years and have it installed on all my computers and mobile devices for less than $3 per month.
Only use a hardware wallet to store Cryptocurrencies
If you have invested a substantial amount of money in cryptocurrencies then you should where possible store them in a hardware wallet like a Ledger. Most of the major cryptocurrencies can be stored on a Ledger which stores the private keys of each currency within the wallet encrypted (jumbled) on the hardware itself. The keys are never revealed to the computer in anyway, in fact you have to authorise each transaction by pressing a physical button on the wallet, which means any virus on your computer cannot reach the wallet. Click here to purchase a Ledger hardware wallet.
Use the Wallet’s signature to verify its authenticity
Fraudulent copies of well-known and established software wallet programs have begun to surface. These phony duplicate programs are made to look exactly like their authentic counterparts and will prompt you to enter your 12-word phrase or password and use this information to steal your funds. To ensure you are downloading the legitimate version of a wallet the company will provide a signature (long series of numbers) which you should verify against the number inside the downloaded wallet. Below are the steps to verify the Exodus multi currency software wallet:
Update Cryptocurrency wallets regularly
Most wallet software will notify you that there is an update and give you a link to download. If they don’t then make a note to check frequently for updates and then install them.
Minimise the additional software you install
As I mentioned before, I recommend having a dedicated computer reserved for your cryptocurrency wallets. If you are using your computer for other tasks try to keep other software to a minimum and only from trusted sources.
How I can help you?
My background is in technology and training and for over 10 years I have provided IT Support to home and small business users through my IT company ithound.co.uk. In recent years I have added Cryptocurrencies to my product offering with cryptohound.me.
Whether you are a business wanting to accept cryptocurrencies or an individual interested in investing in them, I will help you get started and provide training and support to give you confidence using them.
Carl Hughes, The Crypto Hound
Signal Messenger: +447919 562 418
Telegram: @ flowingman