How Do I Buy Bitcoins?

How Do I Buy Bitcoins?

By Andrew Burton

So, your files are locked with ransomware and you have to pay up. Most cyber criminals behind ransomware attacks demand payment in the form of bitcoins to release your files. So what is a bitcoin and how do you buy them?

Bitcoin, introduced in 2008, is a digital asset and payment system, which the U.S. Treasury categorizes as a decentralized virtual currency. Because it masks user identity, bitcoin has also been called the first “cryptocurrency”. Bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies, products and services.

Typically, bitcoins are purchased via a bitcoin exchange. However, you can also buy them directly from a person. Bitcoins can be purchased with cash, check, wire transfer, debit card, or credit card. There are a wide variety of bitcoin exchanges to choose from, depending on the currency you are using. To use a bitcoin exchange you must create a profile, however, your identity is kept private. Bitcoin is a “pseudonymous currency,” which means that funds are tied to a bitcoin address rather than a person or business.

Bitcoins are stored in what is known as a “wallet.” There are three varieties of bitcoin wallets available today, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The first, a software wallet, stores bitcoins locally on your computer or mobile device. Another option is to use a web-based wallet service. Finally, there are hardware wallets that store bitcoins offline on a small electronic device.

The benefits of the software and web-based wallets are pretty straightforward—they’re easy to use because you can access them directly from your laptop or mobile device. They are, however, more susceptible to theft than offline hardware wallets. It really comes down to personal choice. There are many of resources available to help you find the right bitcoin wallet for your needs.

Buying bitcoins is a relatively straightforward process and ransomware demands are often fairly low, so many people tend to pay the ransom to quickly get their data back so that they can move on and avoid any future downtime. However, paying ransom should be a last ditch resort. Why? First, there is no guarantee that the extortionists will unlock your files even after you have paid. And second, paying further emboldens criminals and would-be criminals to conduct ransomware attacks.

Ransomware protection requires a three-pronged approach. First, awareness is key. Be wary of suspicious emails which ask you to open links or attachments. Second, make sure that your software is patched and up-to-date. And, not just your antivirus software, ransomware exploits vulnerabilities in commonly used software, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe apps. Keeping software up-to-date can go a long way to protect against ransomware. Finally, a comprehensive backup and recovery solution is a must to quickly recover files without paying ransom if you do get hit. Look for backup and recovery solutions that allow you to roll back your data and applications to a point in time before the attack.

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