What is cryptocurrency?
At its core, cryptocurrency is typically decentralized digital money designed to be used over the internet. Bitcoin, which launched in 2008, was the first cryptocurrency, and it remains by far the biggest, most influential, and best-known. In the decade since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum have grown as digital alternatives to money issued by governments.
The most popular cryptocurrencies, by market capitalization, are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin. Other well-known cryptocurrencies include Tezos, EOS, and ZCash. Some are similar to Bitcoin. Others are based on different technologies, or have new features that allow them to do more than transfer value.
Crypto makes it possible to transfer value online without the need for a middleman like a bank or payment processor, allowing value to transfer globally, near-instantly, 24/7, for low fees.
Cryptocurrencies are usually not issued or controlled by any government or other central authority. They’re managed by peer-to-peer networks of computers running free, open-source software. Generally, anyone who wants to participate is able to.
Cryptocurrency – meaning and definition
Cryptocurrency, sometimes called crypto-currency or crypto, is any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions. Cryptocurrencies don’t have a central issuing or regulating authority, instead using a decentralized system to record transactions and issue new units.
How to store cryptocurrency
Once you have purchased cryptocurrency, you need to store it safely to protect it from hacks or theft. Usually, cryptocurrency is stored in crypto wallets, which are physical devices or online software used to store the private keys to your cryptocurrencies securely. Some exchanges provide wallet services, making it easy for you to store directly through the platform. However, not all exchanges or brokers automatically provide wallet services for you.
There are different wallet providers to choose from. The terms “hot wallet” and “cold wallet” are used:
- Hot wallet storage: “hot wallets” refer to crypto storage that uses online software to protect the private keys to your assets.
- Cold wallet storage: Unlike hot wallets, cold wallets (also known as hardware wallets) rely on offline electronic devices to securely store your private keys.
How do you get cryptocurrency?
Most cryptocurrencies are created via a process commonly referred to as crypto mining. With crypto mining, high-powered GPU systems are used to decrypt the cryptographic hash to create a new block. Each type of cryptocurrency has a finite number of blocks that can be mined. Over time, it becomes increasingly more complex and difficult to mine coins from an established cryptocurrency. For example, in 2010, a regular user with a GPU-powered system might have been able to mine Bitcoin. However, computing requirements are significantly more complex today, making crypto-mining increasingly complicated.
In the early days of some cryptocurrencies, the currency’s creators often simply give away coins to help promote usage. For example, Dogecoin was well known for providing users with free coins prior to 2020, via what was known as a Doge Faucet.
A popular way to help bring interest and value to a new cryptocurrency is with an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). With an ICO, the group launching a cryptocurrency offers potential investors a given amount of the new cryptocurrency in exchange for a fixed rate of either fiat currency or another cryptocurrency, typically Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Currently, the most common way of acquiring cryptocurrency is via a crypto exchange. At a crypto exchange, users buy a given cryptocurrency either with a fiat currency, such as the US dollar, or with another cryptocurrency. For example, a user could buy Dogecoin with Bitcoin and vice versa. Cryptocurrency exchanges are also where individuals convert a given type of cryptocurrency into cash or a fiat currency.
Is cryptocurrency safe?
Cryptocurrencies are usually built using blockchain technology. Blockchain describes the way transactions are recorded into “blocks” and time stamped. It’s a fairly complex, technical process, but the result is a digital ledger of cryptocurrency transactions that’s hard for hackers to tamper with.
In addition, transactions require a two-factor authentication process. For instance, you might be asked to enter a username and password to start a transaction. Then, you might have to enter an authentication code sent via text to your personal cell phone.
While securities are in place, that does not mean cryptocurrencies are un-hackable. Several high-dollar hacks have cost cryptocurrency start-ups heavily. Hackers hit Coincheck to the tune of $534 million and BitGrail for $195 million, making them two of the biggest cryptocurrency hacks of 2018.
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