Bitcoin ownership is defined by having access to the private keys that allows you to spend them, and these keys need to be protected. But against what? What are some common threats to your coins?
Phishing: most common and successful
Did you ever receive an email from a “prince” somewhere, offering you money if you just help him out? That’s an obvious scam. But what if you’re not quite sure how Bitcoin works, and you receive a well-formatted email from your cryptocurrency exchange, asking you to confirm a few things? Be aware! This is called social engineering. It can be very subtle and many people fall for it.
Main takeaway: Never ever disclose your private keys or your wallet backup (a microSD card or 24 recovery words) to anyone, and never enter them on any device that is not a hardware wallet. Don’t trust anyone asking you to do this, even if they claim they’re an exchange or even the hardware wallet manufacturer.
Remote attacks: scales really well
Someone with physical access to your computer hardware or mobile phone could manipulate it to send out secrets, or they could physically threaten you to hand over your funds. Attacks like that happen, but are rare because they’re very targeted and need a lot of effort and criminal effort. The best prevention against that is to not brag about how many bitcoins you own and enable digital access controls for the devices you use.
Main takeaway: Take privacy seriously and don’t paint yourself a bull’s eye on your back in social media. Protect access to your devices and invest in a hardware wallet if you secure significant amounts.