Security Risks Associated with Cryptocurrency

Everyone is talking about Bitcoin these days.  Cryptocurrency is on the minds of potential investors big and small, but more importantly it is on the minds of the engineers and technicians at TechSolutions.  While many people are dreaming of magical computer money and treasure chests, we are thinking of the potential security implications that come with the adoption of this technology.  Our biggest concern is the software that performs the financial magic, which gets installed on computers that are set up to “mine”, store, or trade cryptocurrency … especially if those computers are your company’s computers that we work very hard to keep safe.  

Cryptocurrency presents a unique set of security risks for us to manage.  One of the biggest challenges we face is teaching end users to understand that despite the lure of financial success through cryptocurrency, security risks must be properly managed to avoid ransomware catastrophes. In most cases, using company-owned equipment for mining cryptocurrency presents too many risks to justify the limited gains the average office computer can achieve.  Even using a personal laptop to mine cryptocurrency while at the office and connected to the office Internet can pose very significant risks to the company.  Nutshell is do not perform cryptocurrency tasks of any kind while at your office.

Due to these risks, our security platforms will block cryptocurrency mining software by default.  Thus, a user may find they are unable to install crypto mining software on a company computer – which is by design and intended.  If use of this software lines up with legitimate business objectives, reach out to us so we can find a suitable solution that properly manages the security risks involved.  

This article is intended to be a very high-level overview to establish the required fundamental information to support further discussion.  In summary, cryptocurrency (often shortened to “crypto”) is electronic data that facilitates trade.  As high tech as it is, many of the fundamental concepts of trade have not changed over time.  In that respect it has become a legitimate form of currency by successfully fulfilling the basic functions of trade.  

Crypto cannot be duplicated thanks to the use of strong encryption methods called Cryptographic Blockchain Technology.  Different currencies use different blockchains to ensure this integrity. Regardless of the integrity methods employed, various computers from around the world (the mining computers referenced above) are used to perform those tasks. Put all together, the many millions of computers, or nodes, that make up the networks add up to a lot of electrical power being consumed.  Each year Bitcoin alone uses 17x more power than all of Google’s datacenters.  Much of it, however, is supplied through renewable energy sources so crypto has been credited by some with driving renewable investment.  It’s also noted by many to produce more financial utility at a lower power cost than the traditional banking system.  Time will tell as the new technology is adopted.

In its most basic form, you are likely to see cryptocurrency used very similarly to a debit card.  All the behind-the-scenes technology is hidden from the view of the users.  The market already has credit card services, such as, that will conduct transactions using cryptocurrency through traditional debit card terminals.  You will also likely start seeing, as has been observed in other countries that have been adopting earlier, BTC stickers on store windows next to the VISA and Mastercard symbols.  This is exciting to see adoption of crypto expanding, however most crypto experts will emphatically tell you to never spend or sell coins.  Some irony cannot be avoided there.  

Crypto is fascinating, exciting, tradeable, risky, and most of the things any good gold rush would be.  It is very easy to get involved in, but, and this is a big but, it is not difficult to lose money when investing your hard-earned dollars.  Trading it is not for the faint of heart as it comes with a lot of risk.  It should be left to the savvy investors and enthusiasts willing to take on risk.  

I believe some of the greatest advancements from blockchain technology will be outside of financials.  It is a massive sandbox for technologists to work and develop in, with some very interesting, distributed development platforms, like Internet Computer, that seeks to build a distributed World Wide Web.  There are projects seeking to improve medical research, preserve important legal documents, power artificial intelligence, and search the cosmos, just to name a few.  All coins have a project behind them that has a goal to achieve some hopefully great work through processing data.  That great work may be a new financial system, organizing the global supply chain, managing identity, or it may be attempting to solve the problem of discerning between computers and people, a reverse Turing test of sorts.  All these goals are important in their own way, and it will be fascinating to watch their development.  

Along with all these promising things comes the standard motley crew of scammers who call you about your car’s warranty and who try to help you fix your “not-broken” computer by loading it up with viruses. They want to scam you out of your money, whether that is crypto or just plain dollars, while promising to make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.  If crypto is something that has been on your mind, please reach out to us for advice on managing the IT risk that is involved.  Please do not install mining or trading software on your company-owned computer or run them on your company’s network before talking to us. Additionally, do NOT install such applications on your home computer that you use to remotely connect to your office.  

Give us a call or shoot us an email.  Talk to us about it.  We can help to keep you safe, at least from an IT perspective.  You are on your own with the investing risks 😊