The recent onslaught of news about the worldwide ransomware epidemic has made it clear that cybercriminals are doing everything they can to take your data hostage and charge you a ransom to get it back – and they typically want victims to pay that ransom in the form of bitcoins.
With all that negative coverage, a person might be tempted to think that Bitcoin is unsafe, harmful or just plain bad. But the truth is there's nothing inherently dangerous about it. In other words, if you choose to purchase bitcoins today, it most likely will not result in you becoming involved with cybercriminals, or any other criminals for that matter. Many people purchase and trade bitcoins every day and no harm ever comes to them as a result.
The fact is, however, that cybercriminals often use bitcoins for nefarious purposes – like collecting ransom payments – because bitcoins are notoriously difficult to trace.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency that was first created in 2009 by an inventor – possibly Satoshi Nakamoto – whose true identity has not been confirmed.
One of the reasons Bitcoin has grown in popularity in recent years is because it offers far lower transaction fees than typical online payment mechanisms. There are no physical bitcoins and the currency is operated by a decentralized authority, as opposed to government-issued money, which is managed by a centralized authority.
Here are some helpful resources for those who want to learn more about bitcoins:
- CoinDesk: simple explanation of bitcoins
- ABC News: Virtual Currency explained
- MarketWatch: Bitcoin basics
Are bitcoins a safe investment?
As with any type of asset, some experts believe bitcoins are a safe investment and others disagree. Here are some resources that can help you decide if investing in bitcoins is the right choice for you.
- Forbes: 10 reasons to invest in bitcoin
- Forbes: 10 reasons not to invest in bitcoin
- BitcoinValues: Should you or should you not invest in bitcoins in 2016?
- BankRate: Bitcoin: Virtual money or risky investment?
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