Since its conception in 2008, BitCoin — the digital currency pervading news outlets — has seen a rise both in prominence and value that few could have anticipated.
Invented by Satoshi Nakamoto (amidst much speculation if the name represents a person or group), the payment system was originally called bitcoins, and was invented as a way to streamline online purchases. When you consider that it is only six years old, the rise of BitCoin has been nothing short of meteoric. Today over 60,000 merchants now accept BitCoin as a valid form of payment, including huge companies such as Zynga, Overstock and even the online auction giant eBay.
However, as with anything that is new and unfamiliar, BitCoin has not arrived without also raising serious questions regarding how safe it might be to use a currency that is entirely digitally-based. And these concerns are not without foundation.
With any online service, you always have to worry about how secure your finances are from a cyber attack. But with BitCoin, you not only have to worry about how secure your money is, but additionally you have to worry about whether the “bank” that you are choosing to entrust with your money is a legitimate bank, not a scam — and there are a lot of BitCoin scam artists. There have been a number of documented cases of these BitCoin scams and ponzi schemes, and they continue still, many of which have cost people millions of dollars before being found out.
These con artists are not the only security concern that is associated with BitCoin, however, as it is also vulnerable to just about every kind of cyber threat, the most prevalent of these being malware. In fact, as of February 2014, there are roughly 150 different types of BitCoin malware circulating on the internet and 99 percent of these were targeted at Windows users — though it should be noted that most of the solutions to protect against malware are also aimed at Windows systems.
Standard antivirus scanners are often slow to pick up on BitCoin malware, so as a result anyone looking to invest in BitCoin must also take necessary steps to ensure better security for the new cyber threats that they will face.
One potential solution is a “paper wallet.” This involves printing off a piece of paper that shows the keys to your BitCoin Wallet, using a QR code to make it easy for transactions. This paper wallet means that you are not vulnerable to any malware, computer failures or other cyber attacks, as it is a physical key. However, being a physical piece of paper means that it is vulnerable to all of the same things that regular money is, such as wear over time, fire, water damage, loss and so on.
So what can you do to protect against the new dangers that are associated with this new digital currency? There are a number of actions that you can take:
1. Be smart. As with any kind of online activity, common sense is the most important defense against cyber attacks. When you come across an online “bank,” make sure that it is respectable and find some good reviews to back up your decision.
2. Use small amounts. Just as you wouldn’t carry thousands of dollars around in your physical wallet, you should avoid storing too much BitCoin on one device at any given time. Stick with small amounts, and you will only have small amounts that are vulnerable to theft.
3. Back it up. Store a backup of your wallet in a secure place. This will help against loss as well as computer failures and human mistakes.
4. Get security. Your digital assets need just as much protection as your physical ones, if not more. Basic antivirus software is generally not good enough to protect against the new threats that your money faces with BitCoin, so make sure that you are paying for the best.
As BitCoin becomes more common, so will hackers who are trying to steal it. However, as hackers improve, so do threat prevention techniques, and with every new attack we learn more about ways to stop them. This type of digital currency will grow into the future and if you want to embrace it, taking the necessary steps of precaution is key to protection.
If or when you begin using BitCoin, your security infrastructure needs to be designed to deal with such a high value target as digital money. The Blue Coat Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) Lifecycle Defense lets you block websites and malware known to be malicious while providing for sophisticated behavior analysis of suspicious files via hybrid sandboxing techniques. The 'Big Data' security analytics component of the Blue Coat ATP Lifecycle allows for the discovery, isolation and remediation of threats that do enter your network.