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It is no doubt Grayscale’s booming popularity as a mainstream investment has caused a lot of community hullabaloo lately. As such, I felt it was worth making a FAQ regarding the topic. I’m looking to update this as needed and of course am open to suggestions / adding any questions. The goal is simply to have a thread we can link to anyone with questions on Grayscaleand its products. Instead of explaining the same thing 3 times a day, shoot those posters over to this thread.My hope is that these questions are answered in a fairly simple and easy to understand manner. I think as the sub grows it will be a nice reference point for newcomers. Disclaimer: I do NOT work for Grayscale and as such am basing all these answers on information that can be found on their website / reports. (Grayscale’s official FAQ can be found here). I also do NOT have a finance degree, I do NOT have a Series 6 / 7 / 140-whatever, and I do NOT work with investment products for my day job. I have an accounting background and work within the finance world so I have the general ‘business’ knowledge to put it all together, but this is all info determined in my best faith effort as a layman. The point being is this --- it is possible I may explain something wrong or missed the technical terms, and if that occurs I am more than happy to update anything that can be proven incorrect Everything below will be in reference to ETHE but will apply to GBTC as well.If those two segregate in any way, I will note that accordingly.
ETHE is essentially a stock that intends to loosely track the price of ETH. It does so by having each ETHE be backed by a specific amount of ETH that is held on chain. Initially, the newly minted ETHE can only be purchased by institutions and accredited investors directly from Grayscale. Once a year has passed (6 months for GBTC) it can then be listed on the OTCQX Best Market exchange for secondary trading. Once listed on OTCQX, anyone investor can purchase at this point. Additional information on ETHE can be found here.
So ETHE is an ETF?
No. For technical reasons beyond my personal understandings it is not labeled an ETF. I know it all flows back to the “Securities Act Rule 144”, but due to my limited knowledge on SEC regulations I don’t want to misspeak past that. If anyone is more knowledgeable on the subject I am happy to input their answer here.
How long has ETHE existed?
ETHE was formed 12/14/2017. GBTC was formed 9/25/2013.
How is ETHE created?
The trust will issue shares to “Authorized Participants” in groups of 100 shares (called baskets). Authorized Participants are the only persons that may place orders to create these baskets and they do it on behalf of the investor. Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 39 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here Note – The way their reports word this makes it sound like there is an army of authorizers doing the dirty work, but in reality there is only one Authorized Participant. At this moment the “Genesis” company is the sole Authorized Participant. Genesis is owned by the “Digital Currency Group, Inc.” which is the parent company of Grayscale as well. (And to really go down the rabbit hole it looks like DCG is the parent company of CoinDesk and is “backing 150+ companies across 30 countries, including Coinbase, Ripple, and Chainalysis.”) Source: Digital Currency Group, Inc. informational section on page 77 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here Source: Barry E. Silbert informational section on page 75 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here
How does Grayscale acquire the ETH to collateralize the ETHE product?
An Investor may acquire ETHE by paying in cash or exchanging ETH already owned.
Cash: The investor pays the subscription amount in cash and the Authorized Participant will use that cash to purchase ETH.
ETH: The investor transfers the ETH to the Authorized Participant, which will contribute the ETH in-kind to the Trust.
Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 40 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Where does Grayscale store their ETH? Does it have a specific wallet address we can follow?
ETH is stored with Coinbase Custody Trust Company, LLC. I am unaware of any specific address or set of addresses that can be used to verify the ETH is actually there. As an aside - I would actually love to see if anyone knows more about this as it’s something that’s sort of peaked my interest after being asked about it… I find it doubtful we can find that however. Source: Part C. Business Information, Item 8, subsection A. on page 16 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Can ETHE be redeemed for ETH?
No, currently there is no way to give your shares of ETHE back to Grayscale to receive ETH back. The only method of getting back into ETH would be to sell your ETHE to someone else and then use those proceeds to buy ETH yourself. Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Why are they not redeeming shares?
I think the report summarizes it best:
Redemptions of Shares are currently not permitted and the Trust is unable to redeem Shares. Subject to receipt of regulatory approval from the SEC and approval by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, the Trust may in the future operate a redemption program. Because the Trust does not believe that the SEC would, at this time, entertain an application for the waiver of rules needed in order to operate an ongoing redemption program, the Trust currently has no intention of seeking regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program.
Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the fee structure?
ETHE has an annual fee of 2.5%. GBTC has an annual fee of 2.0%. Fees are paid by selling the underlying ETH / BTC collateralizing the asset. Source: ETHE’s informational page on Grayscale’s website - Located Here Source: Description of Trust on page 31 & 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the ratio of ETH to ETHE?
At the time of posting (6/19/2020) each ETHE share is backed by .09391605 ETH. Each share of GBTC is backed by .00096038 BTC. ETHE & GBTC’s specific information page on Grayscale’s website updates the ratio daily – Located Here For a full historical look at this ratio, it can be found on the Grayscale home page on the upper right side if you go to Tax Documents > 2019 Tax Documents > Grayscale Ethereum Trust 2019 Tax Letter.
Why is the ratio not 1:1? Why is it always decreasing?
While I cannot say for certain why the initial distribution was not a 1:1 backing, it is more than likely to keep the price down and allow more investors a chance to purchase ETHE / GBTC. As noted above, fees are paid by selling off the ETH collateralizing ETHE. So this number will always be trending downward as time goes on. Source: Description of Trust on page 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
I keep hearing about how this is locked supply… explain?
As noted above, there is currently no redemption program for converting your ETHE back into ETH. This means that once an ETHE is issued, it will remain in circulation until a redemption program is formed --- something that doesn’t seem to be too urgent for the SEC or Grayscale at the moment. Tiny amounts will naturally be removed due to fees, but the bulk of the asset is in there for good. Knowing that ETHE cannot be taken back and destroyed at this time, the ETH collateralizing it will not be removed from the wallet for the foreseeable future. While it is not fully locked in the sense of say a totally lost key, it is not coming out any time soon. Per their annual statement:
The Trust’s ETH will be transferred out of the ETH Account only in the following circumstances: (i) transferred to pay the Sponsor’s Fee or any Additional Trust Expenses, (ii) distributed in connection with the redemption of Baskets (subject to the Trust’s obtaining regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program and the consent of the Sponsor), (iii) sold on an as-needed basis to pay Additional Trust Expenses or (iv) sold on behalf of the Trust in the event the Trust terminates and liquidates its assets or as otherwise required by law or regulation.
Source: Description of Trust on page 31 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Grayscale now owns a huge chunk of both ETH and BTC’s supply… should we be worried about manipulation, a sell off to crash the market crash, a staking cartel?
First, it’s important to remember Grayscale is a lot more akin to an exchange then say an investment firm. Grayscale is working on behalf of its investors to create this product for investor control. Grayscale doesn’t ‘control’ the ETH it holds any more then Coinbase ‘controls’ the ETH in its hot wallet. (Note: There are likely some varying levels of control, but specific to this topic Grayscale cannot simply sell [legally, at least] the ETH by their own decision in the same manner Coinbase wouldn't be able to either.) That said, there shouldn’t be any worry in the short to medium time-frame. As noted above, Grayscale can’t really remove ETH other than for fees or termination of the product. At 2.5% a year, fees are noise in terms of volume. Grayscale seems to be the fastest growing product in the crypto space at the moment and termination of the product seems unlikely. IF redemptions were to happen tomorrow, it’s extremely unlikely we would see a mass exodus out of the product to redeem for ETH. And even if there was incentive to get back to ETH, the premium makes it so that it would be much more cost effective to just sell your ETHE on the secondary market and buy ETH yourself. Remember, any redemption is up to the investors and NOT something Grayscale has direct control over.
Yes, but what about [insert criminal act here]…
Alright, yes. Technically nothing is stopping Grayscale from selling all the ETH / BTC and running off to the Bahamas (Hawaii?). BUT there is no real reason for them to do so. Barry is an extremely public figure and it won’t be easy for him to get away with that. Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust creates SEC reports weekly / bi-weekly and I’m sure given the sentiment towards crypto is being watched carefully. Plus, Grayscale is making tons of consistent revenue and thus has little to no incentive to give that up for a quick buck.
That’s a lot of ‘happy little feels’ Bob, is there even an independent audit or is this Tether 2.0?
Actually yes, an independent auditor report can be found in their annual reports. It is clearly aimed more towards the financial side and I doubt the auditors are crypto savants, but it is at least one extra set of eyes. Auditors are Friedman LLP – Auditor since 2015. Source: Independent Auditor Report starting on page 116 (of the PDF itself) of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here As mentioned by user TheCrpytosAndBloods (In Comments Below), a fun fact:
The company’s auditors Friedman LLP were also coincidentally TetheBitfinex’s auditors until They controversially parted ways in 2018 when the Tether controversy was at its height. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is anything shady about DCG - I just find it interesting it’s the same auditor.
“Grayscale sounds kind of lame” / “Not your keys not your crypto!” / “Why is anyone buying this, it sounds like a scam?”
Welp, for starters this honestly is not really a product aimed at the people likely to be reading this post. To each their own, but do remember just because something provides no value to you doesn’t mean it can’t provide value to someone else. That said some of the advertised benefits are as follows:
Access to trading within a tax advantaged retirement account
Institutions can easily and safely get exposure to crypto in a more legal-friendly manner
Ease of use for those who are not very technologically savvy
Ease of access for someone who doesn’t want to set up a Coinbase account
Perceived trust in institutional platforms over something like Coinbase or Kraken
Degen traders who just want access to the volatility ETHE provides that have no interest in crypto beyond that
So for example, I can set up an IRA at a brokerage account that has $0 trading fees. Then I can trade GBTC and ETHE all day without having to worry about tracking my taxes. All with the relative safety something like E-Trade provides over Binance. As for how it benefits the everyday ETH holder? I think the supply lock is a positive. I also think this product exposes the Ethereum ecosystem to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about it.
Why is there a premium? Why is ETHE’s premium so insanely high compared to GBTC’s premium?
There are a handful of theories of why a premium exists at all, some even mentioned in the annual report. The short list is as follows:
ETHE is NOT redeeming shares and as such doesn’t have an effective arbitrage mechanism
ETHE has a 1 year wait to be sold on the secondary market, again negating the ability to effectively arbitrage the premium
People may simply be willing to pay a premium for the benefits stated above.
Why is ETHE’s so much higher the GBTC’s? Again, a few thoughts:
ETHE hasn’t been around as long, so there is less secondary market supply to go around
ETHE was listed at an insanely high premium to begin with
ETHE might simply be more popular at the moment
Could just be sheer stupidity (investors think ETHE is a 1:1 ratio not 1:11)
Are there any other differences between ETHE and GBTC?
I touched on a few of the smaller differences, but one of the more interesting changes is GBTC is now a “SEC reporting company” as of January 2020. Which again goes beyond my scope of knowledge so I won’t comment on it too much… but the net result is GBTC is now putting out weekly / bi-weekly 8-K’s and annual 10-K’s. This means you can track GBTC that much easier at the moment as well as there is an extra layer of validity to the product IMO.
I’m looking for some statistics on ETHE… such as who is buying, how much is bought, etc?
There is a great Q1 2020 report I recommend you give a read that has a lot of cool graphs and data on the product. It’s a little GBTC centric, but there is some ETHE data as well. It can be found here hidden within the 8-K filings.Q1 2020 is the 4/16/2020 8-K filing. For those more into a GAAP style report see the 2019 annual 10-K of the same location.
Is Grayscale only just for BTC and ETH?
No, there are other products as well. In terms of a secondary market product, ETCG is the Ethereum Classic version of ETHE. Fun Fact – ETCG was actually put out to the secondary market first. It also has a 3% fee tied to it where 1% of it goes to some type of ETC development fund. In terms of institutional and accredited investors, there are a few ‘fan favorites’ such as Bitcoin Cash, Litcoin, Stellar, XRP, and Zcash. Something called Horizion (Backed by ZEN I guess? Idk to be honest what that is…). And a diversified Mutual Fund type fund that has a little bit of all of those. None of these products are available on the secondary market.
Are there alternatives to Grayscale?
I know they exist, but I don’t follow them. I’ll leave this as a “to be edited” section and will add as others comment on what they know. Per user Over-analyser (in comments below):
As asked by pegcity - Okay so I was under the impression you can just give them your own ETH and get ETHE, but do you get 11 ETHE per ETH or do you get the market value of ETH in USD worth of ETHE?
I have always understood that the ETHE issued directly through Grayscale is issued without the premium. As in, if I were to trade 1 ETH for ETHE I would get 11, not say only 2 or 3 because the secondary market premium is so high. And if I were paying cash only I would be paying the price to buy 1 ETH to get my 11 ETHE. Per page 39 of their annual statement, it reads as follows:
The Trust will issue Shares to Authorized Participants from time to time, but only in one or more Baskets (with a Basket being a block of 100 Shares). The Trust will not issue fractions of a Basket. The creation (and, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redemption) of Baskets will be made only in exchange for the delivery to the Trust, or the distribution by the Trust, of the number of whole and fractional ETH represented by each Basket being created (or, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redeemed), which is determined by dividing (x) the number of ETH owned by the Trust at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the trade date of a creation or redemption order, after deducting the number of ETH representing the U.S. dollar value of accrued but unpaid fees and expenses of the Trust (converted using the ETH Index Price at such time, and carried to the eighth decimal place), by (y) the number of Shares outstanding at such time (with the quotient so obtained calculated to one one-hundred-millionth of one ETH (i.e., carried to the eighth decimal place)), and multiplying such quotient by 100 (the “Basket ETH Amount”). All questions as to the calculation of the Basket ETH Amount will be conclusively determined by the Sponsor and will be final and binding on all persons interested in the Trust. The Basket ETH Amount multiplied by the number of Baskets being created or redeemed is the “Total Basket ETH Amount.” The number of ETH represented by a Share will gradually decrease over time as the Trust’s ETH are used to pay the Trust’s expenses. Each Share represented approximately 0.0950 ETH and 0.0974 ETH as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
On the new batch of comments to the SEC about the SolidX ETF, some honorable mentions, and some negative comments
The SEC just posted a new batch of 286 comments on the SolidX ETF, bringing the total to 1147. I am skimming through them and posted some of the best already to this sub. The vast majority are short comments, obviously submitted in response to some mail-in campaign. The names sound very much like the invented ones of spam emails that I have been receiving for years. A telling detail is the lack of a middle initial. They also mostly repeat the same arguments, and many are obviously written by people who don't understand what is the ETF, only that if that SEC thing approves it then the bitcoin price will go to the moon. I have just seen a dozen that start with the same phrase "I hearby[sic] state my acceptance and full support..." Some are so sloppy that they submit with one name but sign with a different name. Here are some honorable mentions:
Secured by math: "Please allow Bitcoin ETF as Bitcoin is an implementation of the perfect math and therefore based on the truth. Math has brought prosperity for mankind"
The New Age approach: [In Spanish] "Cordial salute. The new age of aquarius, which is the age of conscience and light, brings with it bread under the arm, in the second world war when the enigma code was deciphered to end the devastating war, we were at the door of the new age, and cryptography was making its first redeeming steps. Why resist what is good and favorable, when thanks to cryptography the second world war ended, and now it gives us again the hand, to an anti-corrupted technology, which wants to end a war disguised as crime, drug traffic, and political corruption, war that is carried out in silence and keeps obstaclizing the good development of mankind. Blockchain the technology of the new age of aquarius. Approved."
Johnny I: "an asset as it sits on the highly volatile market where distribution of coins are unevenly formed by small number of holders across the world (1% of addresses own 80-90% mined coins) who could manipulate prices effortlessly over the fake news. Also, sky-rocketing mining cost and inevitable hike of transfer fee (soon it will be only source of revenue for miners) will cast doubt to sustainability for a public investment tool. Bitcoin ETF would only serve as investing fads."
Mark Szyszkowski, CCRCP.org: "[...] Where is the intrinsic value derived from? What is the backing of Bitcoin? What is the definition of purely cyber infrastructure? Who runs it? How is expansion allocated and its technology upgraded? What inherent technological security risks does it have? [...]"
D. B.: "The Proposed Rule Change does not appear to detail the policy and procedure in event of a bitcoin blockchain fork. "
William Morrison: "The abundance of comments submitted on subject of this ETF speaks clearly: there is a mass of unsophisticated retail investors---most with no previous investing experience---looking to get rich quick or make back losses from the Bitcoin market plunge over the last half year. And of course the many savvy retail and institutional investors more than happy to take advantage of them. [...] For all the comments urging the importance of the United States being at forefront of blockchain or distributed ledger technology and innovation by allowing a Bitcoin ETF, few if any are able to explain why it is hinged on expansion on the wholly speculative nature of this asset class. [...] it is telling that the mention-able examples of companies succeeding in this sector are mining equipment manufacturers (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/23/secretive-chinese-bitcoin-mining-company-may-have-made-as-much-money-as-nvidia-last-year.html) and online cryptocurrency exchanges (https://www.businessinsider.com/binance-cryptocurrency-exchange-profit-prediction-2018-7). In other words, casinos are the biggest profit-makers in the market of gamblers."
Ken I Maher: "[...] There is improvement from 2 years ago when 96% of volume occurred unregulated in China but this leaves 86% of market activity still under no official established regulation against fraudulent trading activity or manipulation. US bitcoin exchanges still blindly and automatedly follow the dominant unregulated markets due to their own thinness of volume and liquidity. [...] More incredible is the emergence of USDT (Tether) a cryptocurrency token issued by a single exchange that claims to be 'pegged' to USD value and unprovenly to be backed by USD reserve. It now commands over 130% of global trading volume compared to all fiat pairs. [...]"
Kash Ranks: "In a world where making a daily living is hard enough, how can you in good conscience, allow a speculative/scam instrument like Bitcoin to exist let alone approve an ETF. Blockchain has its merits but Coins are nothing more than a digital scam which is robbing people of their hard earned money and enabling speculative fervor."
Ran Lagil: "[...] can one claim that the price action of the bitcoin spot market in the unregulated exchanges, which holds the vast majority of volume, as acknowledged by the SEC, doesn’t affect the XBT future market? Of course not. In any financial market where arbitrage is available, the price change in one source will affect the rest of the market. [...] Please find the bellow image which demonstrate the volume manipulation in the ETCBTC market in the world largest Crypto Exchange - Binance. [...]"
Peter Quinn: "Bitcoin is a pure speculation vehicle with no traditional value or commercial/industrial use. It has no fundamentals, is exceptionally volatile and is easily manipulated due to poor market liquidity and no market regulation. A CBOE listed ETF that is proposing to be a passive Bitcoin holding vehicle is nothing more than trying to get a broader pool of investors involved in something that would never be allowed for listing on a regulated stock exchange if it was a company. [...] Additionally, much of the purported size of Bitcoin is an illusion, with "market cap" as reported on private websites such as Coinmarketcap.com taking all coins ever in existence multiplied by an average of the last traded price in dollars. Volume is commonly reported as all Bitcoins traded in dollar value even if, as is the case, most of them did not trade against hard currency at all, instead trading against other cryptocurrencies or Tether, a purported 1:1: USD backed cryptocurrency that has been used to artificially pump the price and is more comparable to counterfeit money. [...]"
Sam Ahn: "I am opposed to the whole idea of bitcoin, because bitcoin does not have intrinsic value and SEC was created to prevent sale of pieces of the blue sky. [...] Bitcoin is a commodity money, which cannot be a store of value without having its own value established before becoming money. "
Hello! My name is Inna Halahuz, I am a sales manager at Platinum, the largest listing service provider for the STO and ICO projects. We know all about the best and most useful STO and ICO marketing services. By the way, we developed the best blockchain platform: [Platinum.fund] (https://platinum.fund/sto/) We also created the UBAI, the unique educational project with the best and most useful online courses. We not only share our knowledge but also help the best graduates to find a job! After finishing our courses you will know all about crypto securities, ICO and STO advertizing and best blockchain platforms. What a Blockchain Wallet is? What is its purpose? Find the answer after reading this article. Public/Private Key The public key is the digital code you give to someone that wants to transfer ownership of a unit of cryptocurrency to you; and a private key is what you need to be able to unlock your own wallet to transfer a unit of a cryptocurrency to someone else. The encoding of information within a wallet is done by the private and public keys. That is the main component of the encryption that maintains the security of the wallet. Both keys function in simultaneous encryption systems called symmetric and asymmetric encryption. The former, alternatively known as private key encryption, makes use of the same key for encryption and decryption. The latter, asymmetric encryption, utilizes two keys, the public and private key, wherein a message-sender encrypts the message with the public key, and the recipient decodes it with their private key. The public key uses asymmetric algorithms that convert messages into an unreadable format. A person who possesses a public key can encrypt the message for a specific receiver. Accessing wallets Methods of wallet access vary depending on the type of wallet being used. Various types of currency wallets on an exchange will normally be accessed via the exchange’s entrance portal, normally involving a combination of a username/password and optionally, 2FA (Two factor authentication, which we explain in more detail later). Whereas hardware wallets need to be connected to an internet enabled device, and then have a pin code entered manually by the user in possession of the hardware wallet in order for access to be gained. Phone wallets are accessed through the device on which the wallet application has been downloaded. Ordinarily, a passcode and/or security pattern must be entered before entry is granted, in addition to 2FA for withdrawals. Satoshi Nakamoto built the Satoshi client which evolved into Bitcoin in 2009. This software allowed users to create wallets and send money to other addresses. However, it proved to be a nightmarish user experience, with many transactions being sent to incorrect addresses and private keys being lost. The MtGox (Magic the Gathering Online exchange, named after the original intended use of the exchange) incident, which will be covered in greater detail later, serves as a reminder of the dangers present in the cryptosphere regarding security, and the need to constantly upgrade your defenses against all potential hacks. The resulting loss of 850k BTC is a still unresolved problem, weighing heavily on the victims and the markets at large. This caused a huge push for a constantly evolving and improving focus on security. Exchanges that developed later, and are thus considered more legitimate and secure, such as Gemini and Coinbase, put a much greater emphasis on vigilance as a direct result of the MtGox hacking incident. We also saw the evolution of wallet security into the physical realm with the creation of hardware wallets, most notable among them the Ledger and Trezor wallets. Types of Wallets & Storage Methods The simplest way to sift through the dozens of cryptocurrency storage methods available today, is to divide them up into digital and non-digital, software and hardware wallets. There are also less commonly used methods of storage of private keys, like paper wallets and brain wallets. We will examine them all at least briefly, because in the course of your interaction with cryptocurrencies and Blockchain technology, it is essential to master all the different types of hardware and software wallets. Another distinction must be made between hot wallets and cold wallets. A hot wallet is one that is connected to the internet, and a cold wallet is one that is not. Fun fact: The level below cold storage, deep cold storage has just recently been implemented by the Regal RA DMCC, a subsidiary of an internationally renowned gold trading company licensed in the Middle East. After having been granted a crypto trading license, Regal RA launched their “deep cold” storage solution for traders and investors, which offers the ability to store crypto assets in vaults deep below the Almas Tower in Dubai. This storage method is so secure that at no point is the vault connected to a network or the internet; meaning the owners of the assets can be sure that the private keys are known only to the rightful owners. Lets take a quick look at specific features and functionality of varieties of crypto wallets. Software wallets: wallet applications installed on a laptop, desktop, phone or tablet. Web Wallets: A hot wallet by definition. Web Wallets are accessible through the web browser on your phone or computer. The most important feature to recognize about any kind of web wallet, is that the private keys are held and managed by a trusted third party. MyEtherWallet is the most commonly used non-exchange web wallet, but it can only be used to store Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens. Though the avenue of access to MEW is through the web, it is not strictly speaking a web wallet, though this label will suffice for the time being. The MEW site gives you the ability to create a new wallet so you can store your ETH yourself. All the data is created and stored on your CPU rather than their servers. This makes MEW a hybrid kind of web wallet and desktop wallet. Exchange Wallets: A form of Web Wallet contained within an exchange. An exchange will hold a wallet for each individual variety of cryptocurrency you hold on that exchange. Desktop Wallets: A software program downloaded onto your computer or tablet hard drive that usually holds only one kind of cryptocurrency. The Nano Wallet (Formerly Raiwallet) and Neon wallet for storage of NEO and NEP-5 tokens are notable examples of desktop wallets Phone Wallets: These are apps downloaded onto a mobile phone that function in the same manner as a desktop wallet, but actually can hold many different kinds of cryptocurrency. The Eidoo Wallet for storing Ethereum and its associated tokens and Blockchain Wallet which currently is configured to hold BTC, ETH and Bitcoin Cash, are some of the most widely used examples. Hardware wallets — LedgeTrezoAlternatives Hardware wallets are basically physical pathways and keys to the unique location of your crypto assets on the Blockchain. These are thought to be more secure than any variety of web wallet because the private key is stored within your own hard wallet, an actual physical device. This forcibly removes the risk your online wallet, or your exchange counter party, might be hacked in the same manner as MtGox. In hardware wallet transactions, the wallet’s API creates the transaction when a user requests a payment. An API is a set of functions that facilitates the creation of applications that interact and access features or data of an operating system. The hardware then signs the transaction, and produces a public key, which is given to the network. This means the signing keys never leave the hardware wallet. The user must both enter a personal identification number and physically press buttons on the hardware wallet in order to gain access to their Blockchain wallet address through this method, and do the same to initiate transfers. Paper Wallets Possibly the safest form of cryptocurrency storage in terms of avoiding hacking, Paper Wallets are an offline form of crypto storage that is free to set up, and probably the most secure way for users, from beginners to experts, to hold on to their crypto assets. To say it simply, paper wallets are an offline cold storage method of storing cryptocurrency. This includes actually printing out your public and private keys on a piece of paper, which you then store and save in a secure place. The keys are printed in the form of QR codes which you can scan in the future for all your transactions. The reason why it is so safe is that it gives complete control to you, the user. You do not need to worry about the security or condition of a piece of hardware, nor do you have to worry about hackers on the net, or any other piece of malware. You just need to take care of one piece of paper! Real World Historical Examples of Different Wallet Types Web Wallet: Blockchain.info Brief mechanism & Security Blockchain.info is both a cryptocurrency wallet, supporting Bitcoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin cash, and also a block explorer service. The wallet service provided by blockchain.info has both a Web Wallet, and mobile phone application wallet, both of which involve signing up with an email address, and both have downloadable private keys. Two Factor Authentication is enabled for transfers from the web and mobile wallets, as well as email confirmation (as with most withdrawals from exchanges). Phone Wallet: Eidoo The Eidoo wallet is a multi-currency mobile phone app wallet for storage of Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens. The security level is the standard phone wallet level of email registration, confirmation, password login, and 2 factor authentication used in all transfers out. You may find small volumes of different varieties of cryptocurrencies randomly turning up in your Eidoo wallet address. Certain projects have deals with individual wallets to allow for “airdrops” to take place of a particular token into the wallet, without the consent of the wallet holder. There is no need to be alarmed, and the security of the wallet is not in any way compromised by these airdrops. Neon Wallet The NEON wallet sets the standard for web wallets in terms of security and user-friendly functionality. This wallet is only designed for storing NEO, Gas, and NEP-5 tokens (Ontology, Deep Brain Chain, RPX etc.). As with all single-currency wallets, be forewarned, if you send the wrong cryptocurrency type to a wallet for which it is not designed, you will probably lose your tokens or coins. MyEtherWallet My Ether Wallet, often referred to as MEW, is the most widely used and highly regarded wallet for Ethereum and its related ERC-20 tokens. You can access your MEW account with a hardware wallet, or a different program. Or you can also get access by typing or copying in your private key. However, you should understand this method is the least safe way possible,and therefore is the most likely to result in a hack. Hardware: TrezoLedger Brief History Mechanism and Security A hardware wallet is a physical key to your on-chain wallet location, with the private keys contained within a secure sector of the device. Your private key never leaves your hardware wallet. This is one of the safest possible methods of access to your crypto assets. Many people feel like the hardware wallet strikes the right balance between security, peace of mind, and convenience. Paper Wallet Paper wallets can be generated at various websites, such as https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com/ and https://walletgenerator.net/. They enable wallet holders to store their private keys totally offline, in as secure a manner as is possible. Real World Example — Poor Practices MtGox Hack history effects and security considerations MtGox was the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world before it was hacked in 2014. They were handling over 70% of BTC transactions before they were forced to liquidate their business. The biggest theft of cryptocurrency in history began when the private keys for the hot wallets were stolen in 2011 from a wallet.dat file, possibly by hacking, possibly by a rogue employee. Over the course of the next 3 years the hot wallets were emptied of approximately 650000 BTC. The hacker only needed wallet.dat file to access and make transfers from the hot wallet, as wallet encryption was only in operation from the time of the Bitcoin 0.4.0 release on Sept 23rd 2011. Even as the wallets were being emptied, the employees at Mt Gox were apparently oblivious to what was taking place. It seems that Mt Gox workers were interpreting these withdrawals as large transfers being made to more secure wallets. The former CEO of the exchange, Mark Karpeles, is currently on trial for embezzlement and faces up to 5 years in prison if found guilty. The Mt Gox hack precipitated the acceleration of security improvements on other exchanges, for wallets, and the architecture of bitcoin itself. As a rule of thumb, no small-to-medium scale crypto holders should use exchange wallets as a long-term storage solution. Investors and experienced traders may do this to take advantage of market fluctuations, but exchange wallets are perhaps the most prone to hacking, and storing assets on exchanges for an extended time is one of the riskiest ways to hold your assets. In a case strikingly similar to the MtGox of 2011–2014, the operators of the BitGrail exchange “discovered” that approximately 17 million XRB ($195 million worth in early 2018) were missing. The operators of the exchange were inexplicably still accepting deposits, long after they knew about the hack. Then they proceeded to block withdrawals from non-EU users. And then they even requested a hard fork of the code to restore the funds. This would have meant the entire XRB Blockchain would have had to accept all transactions from their first “invalid” transaction that were invalid, and rollback the ledger. The BitGrailexchange attempted to open operations in May 2018 but was immediately forced to close by order of the Italian courts. BitGrail did not institute mandatory KYC (Know your customer) procedures for their clients until after the theft had been reported, and allegedly months after the hack was visible. They also did not have 2 factor authentication mandatory for withdrawals. All big, and very costly mistakes. Case Study: Good Practice Binance, the Attempted Hack During the 2017 bull run, China-based exchange Binance quickly rose to the status of biggest altcoin exchange in the world, boasting daily volumes that surged to over $4 billion per day in late December. Unfortunately, this success attracted the attention of some crafty hackers. These hackers purchased domain names that were confusingly similar to “binance.com”. And then they created sufficiently convincing replica websites so they could phish traders for their login information. After obtaining this vital info, the scammers created API keys to place large buy orders for VIAcoin, an obscure, low volume digital currency. Those large buy orders spiked VIA’s price. Within minutes they traded the artificially high-priced VIA for BTC. Then they immediately made withdrawal requests from the hacked BTC wallets to wallets outside of the exchange. Almost a perfect fait accompli! But, Binance’s “automating risk management system” kicked in, as it should, and all withdrawals were temporarily suspended, resulting in a foiled hacking attempt. Software Wallets Web/Desktop/Phone/Exchange Advantages and Limitations As we said before, it is inadvisable to store crypto assets in exchange wallets, and, to a lesser extent, Web Wallets. The specific reason we say that is because you need to deliver your private keys into the hands of another party, and rely on that website or exchange to keep your private key, and thus your assets, safe. The advantages of the less-secure exchange or web wallets, are the speed at which you can transfer assets into another currency, or into another exchange for sale or for arbitrage purposes. Despite the convenience factor, all software wallets will at some point have been connected to the internet or a network. So, you can never be 100% sure that your system has not been infected with malware, or some kind of keylogging software, that will allow a third party to record your passwords or private keys. How well the type of storage method limits your contact with such hazards is a good way to rate the security of said variety of wallet. Of all the software wallets, desktop and mobile wallets are the most secure because you download and store your own private key, preferably on a different system. By taking the responsibility of private key storage you can be sure that only one person has possession of it, and that is you! Thereby greatly increasing the security of your crypto assets. By having their assets in a desktop wallet, traders can guard their private key and enjoy the associated heightened security levels, as well keep their assets just one swift transfer away from an exchange. Hardware Wallets Advantages and Limitations We briefly touched on the features and operation of the two most popular hardware wallets currently on the market, the Ledger and Trezor wallets. Now it will be helpful to take a closer look into the pros and cons of the hardware wallet storage method. With hardware wallets, the private keys are stored within a protected area of the microcontroller, and they are prevented from being exported out of the device in plain text. They are fortified with state-of-the-art cryptography that makes them immune to computer viruses and malware. And much of the time, the software is open source, which allows user validation of the entire performance of the device. The advantages of a hardware wallet over the perhaps more secure paper wallet method of crypto storage is the interactive user experience, and also the fact that the private key must at some stage be downloaded in order to use the paper wallet. The main disadvantage of a hardware wallet is the time-consuming extra steps needed to transfer funds out of this mode of storage to an exchange, which could conceivably result in some traders missing out on profits. But with security being the main concern of the vast majority of holders, investors and traders too, this slight drawback is largely inconsequential in most situations. Paper Wallets Advantages and Limitations Paper wallets are thought by some to be the safest way to store your crypto assets, or more specifically, the best method of guarding the pathways to your assets on the Blockchain. By printing out your private key information, the route to your assets on the Blockchain is stored 100% offline (apart from the act of printing the private key out, the entire process is totally offline). This means that you will not run the risk of being infected with malware or become the victim of keylogging scams. The main drawback of using paper wallets is that you are in effect putting all your eggs in one basket, and if the physical document is destroyed, you will lose access to your crypto assets forever. Key things to keep in mind about your Wallet Security: Recovery Phrases/Private Key Storage/2FA/Email Security Recovery phrases are used to recover the on-chain location for your wallet with your assets for hardware wallets like ledgers and Trezors that have been lost. When you purchase a new ledger for example, you just have to set it up again by entering the recovery phrase into the display and the lost wallets will appear with your assets intact. Private key storage is of paramount importance to maintain the safety of your on-chain assets! This should be done in paper wallet form, or stored offline on a different computer, or USB device, from the one you would typically use to connect to the 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) sometimes known as “two step authentication”. This feature offers an extra security layer when withdrawing funds from cryptocurrency wallets. A specialized app, most commonly Google Authenticator, is synced up to the exchange to provide a constantly changing code. This code must be entered within a short time window to initiate transfers, or to log into an exchange, if it has also been enabled for that purpose. You must always consider the level of fees, or the amount of Gas, that will be needed to carry out the transaction. In times of high network activity Gas prices can be quite high. In fact, in December 2017 network fees became so high that some Bitcoin transactions became absolutely unfeasible. But that was basically due to the anomalous network congestion caused by frantic trading of Bitcoin as it was skyrocketing in value. When copying wallet addresses, double check and triple check that they are correct. If you make a mistake and enter an incorrect address, it is most likely your funds will be irretrievably lost; you will never see those particular assets again. Also check that you haven’t input the address of another one of your wallets that is designed to hold a different variety of cryptocurrency. You would similarly run the very great risk of losing your funds forever. Or, at the very least, if you have sent the wrong crypto to a large exchange wallet, for example on Coinbase, maybe you could eventually get those funds back, but it would still entail a long and unenjoyable wait. How to Monitor Funds There are two ways to monitor you funds and your wallets. The first is by searching for individual wallet addresses on websites specifically designed to let you view all the transactions on a particular Blockchain. The other is to store a copy of your wallet contents on an application that tracks the prices of all cryptocurrencies. Blockchain.info is the block explorer for Bitcoin, and it allows you to track all wallet movements so you can view your holdings and all the historical transactions within the wallet. The Ethereum blockchain’s block explorer is called Ether scanner, and it functions in the same way. There is a rival to Ether scanner produced by the Jibrel Network, called JSearch which will be released soon. JSearch will aim to offer a more streamlined and faster search method for Ethereum blockchain transactions. There are many different kinds of block explorer for each individual crypto currency, including nanoexplorer.io for Nano (formerly Rai Blocks) and Neotracker for NEO. If you simply want to view the value of your portfolio, the Delta and Blockfolio apps allow you to easily do that. But they are not actually linked to your specific wallet address, they just show price movements and total value of the coins you want to monitor. That’s not all! You can learn how to transfer and monitor the funds in and out of your wallet by clicking on the link. To be continued! UBAI.co Contact me via Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to learn more about the best online education: LinkedInFacebookInstagram
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