best cryptocurrency exchanges

Edit: This list of cryptocurrency exchanges was updated on January 16, 2019 to include new developments.

Welcome to the most comprehensive and detailed guide to the best cryptocurrency exchanges in 2019. Choosing the best cryptocurrency exchange is an important part of your crypto journey. It might be the first place you ever buy bitcoin. Or if you’re a seasoned trader, you might use a bitcoin exchange to trade hundreds of altcoins.

But how do you differentiate between the options? CoinMarketCap lists at least 100 crypto exchanges all over the world, each tracking cryptocurrency prices and each with varying cryptocurrency exchange rates.

Block Explorer took on the challenge of narrowing down the options and compiling as much information as possible to help you decide. First…

What is a cryptocurrency exchange?

In its simplest form, a crypto exchange is a place to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. However, crypto exchanges are not all equal. Some are designed for beginners, while others have complex features for pro traders.

Some exchanges accept fiat currency like dollars and euros, while others only exchange between cryptocurrencies themselves.

Many are actually “brokers.” In other words, you’re buying directly from the exchange company itself. Others facilitate a real peer-to-peer exchange between crypto users.

best cryptocurrency exchanges

How to choose the best cryptocurrency exchange

We began this task with the aim of ranking the best cryptocurrency exchanges. But we quickly realized this wasn’t possible. There isn’t necessarily a “best exchange,” only the best option for you.

While Coinbase might be the top exchange for beginners, it’s not the best option for a pro trader or someone looking to trade lots of altcoins.

And while the Kraken exchange might be the best option for experts, it’s a poor choice for beginners.

Instead, Block Explorer gathered as much (useful) information as possible taking the following points into consideration:

Beginners or advanced? – We’ve split the entire list into two parts: beginner and advanced. The beginner group includes simple exchanges with easy-to-use functionality. There’s little jargon, and setup times are quick. The second group is for intermediates or advanced users. These exchanges are more powerful and have advanced features, but require some knowledge and experience with crypto.

Security – Crypto exchanges are the single biggest target for hackers. $1 billion was hacked and stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in 2018 alone. We highlight security features like 2FA, cold storage, and encrypted email options.

Hacked? – We also highlight whether an exchange has been hacked and, if so, how they responded to the hack. Did keep it quiet or immediately inform users? This information is essential in deciding whether to trust your money to an exchange.

Number of trading pairs – We highlight the number of trading pairs available on each exchange. For beginners, a small handful of trading pairs is sufficient (to buy or sell bitcoin, for example). Advanced users, however, may wish to trade between various altcoins.

Volume – Volume is the measure of how much cryptocurrency is trading on the platform on a daily basis. It’s a relatively good indicator of reputation and liquidity.

Important note: Research suggests that some cryptocurrency exchanges fake their own volume in a bid to appear bigger. Where appropriate, we have highlighted the known offenders.

Fees – You should always understand the fee structure before trusting an exchange. How much will each trade cost and how are the fees calculated? We outline the fee structure for each exchange.

Without further ado, here are the best cryptocurrency exchanges in 2019 and beyond.

Please note: Block Explorer has no affiliation with the exchanges listed below.

Best Beginner Exchanges

Beginner exchanges are exchanges that offer a simple way to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with as little confusing jargon and setup time as possible.

Coinbase

Coinbase

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Number of Trading Pairs 4
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 33
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $82,496,871.00
30d Volume (BTC) $82,496,871.00
Fees Flat 0.5% + a fee based on location and amount

Coinbase is the best-known cryptocurrency exchange in the US. It is the simplest and easiest on-ramp for crypto beginners.

The user interface is intuitive, and the design is clean and simple. You can link up your bank account or pay with a card. There’s also a deep library of guides and explainers for newcomers.

Coinbase has a limited choice of cryptocurrency options to keep things simple. However, they considering the addition of more altcoins.

As for security, Coinbase stores 98% of customer funds in cold storage, in safe deposit boxes and vaults around the world, making it relatively secure. The remaining 2% is insured in case of hacks. 

Lastly, there’s a handy mobile app to buy and sell cryptocurrency on the go.

Get started on Coinbase.

ShapeShift

ShapeShift crypto exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 940+ (Total unknown – each crypto can be traded with any other)
Hacked before? Yes, see below for transparency.
Available Countries Available to all countries
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
24h Volume (Fiat) No USD Trade
24h Volume (BTC) 34.12
Fees No fees applied, profit is made similar to how day trading is profitable.

Shapeshift is a crypto only exchange, which means you can’t buy cryptocurrency with dollars or euros. You can only trade between cryptocurrencies. However, due to its simplicity, we still recommend it for beginners. 

ShapeShift allows you to transfer currency between addresses of your choosing, rather than between accounts on its platform. It means ShapeShift doesn’t hold any customer deposits, making it relatively safe. 

ShapeShift has been hacked three times, which all occurred in the same month due to internal sabotage. The exchange was extremely transparent in what happened over the hack, with the CEO going so far as to write a blow-by-blow explanation of what exactly happened.

Get started on ShapeShift.

Gemini

Gemini bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 9
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 15
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, withdrawal address whitelisting
30d Volume (Fiat) $19,134,737.00
30d Volume (BTC) 4,887.00
Fees Maker / Taker: Minimum 0.0% / 0.05%, Maximum 1.0% / 1.0%. Calculated on a 30-day rolling window

Gemini was founded by the Winklevoss Twins. It’s a US-based exchange noted for being a licensed platform (Regulated by NYSDFS). Gemini gained headlines earlier this year by announcing full insurance coverage for funds on its exchange and in custody.

Gemini and the Winklevoss Twins pride themselves on being fully compliant and working within existing regulations. As such, there’s a decent amount of safety from fraud and insurance coverage on this exchange. Of course, that comes at a cost: handing over a lot of personal information.

Gemini offers a decent chunk of volume, though few trading pairs compared to other exchanges. Security wise, aside from the standard 2FA, withdrawal address whitelisting is a welcome sight.

The Gemini app is also slick and easy-to-use for beginners.

Get started on Gemini.

Changelly

Changelly bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Crypto / Fiat
Trading Pairs 200+ (Total unknown)
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All countries accepted for Crypto / Crypto trades
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) Not Published
30d Volume (BTC) Not Published
Fees Flat 0.5% fee

Changelly is a crypto exchange similar to ShapeShift. It is address-to-address so Changelly never holds your funds.

There’s a simple frontend for buying bitcoin and converting it to whatever cryptocurrency you would like. Much like ShapeShift, changelly transfers happen between addresses you own, rather than between accounts that the exchange controls.

It’s super fast and efficient. There’s a mobile app too for making transactions on the go.

Get started on Changelly.

Luno

Luno buy bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 5
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 40
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $3,140,452.00
30d Volume (BTC) 805.06
Fees Maker / Taker. Makers are a flat 0% and takers range from 0.20% to 1.0%

Luno offers a great platform for African and European traders looking to get started. Alongside their exchange, Luno offers a wallet service with a companion mobile app. The exchange has been around since 2013 and has never been hacked, giving it a fairly solid reputation for security.

It’s designed to be as simple as possible, including an “instant buy” feature.

Get started on Luno.

Coinmama

Coinmama bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 16
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 226
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) Not Published
30d Volume (BTC) Not Published
Fees 5.9% flat fee with an additional 5% for credit card purchases

Coinmama is a good choice for those looking to buy crypto using a credit card or other fiat sources. Coinmama is a broker so you’re buying directly from the company itself which makes transactions fast.

However, there are some things to be aware of. Coinmama is “buy only” so you cannot sell cryptocurrencies on the platform. There is also no wallet feature on the exchange, so you need to withdraw directly to a wallet. This is no bad thing as keeping your funds on an exchange is risky, but you will need a wallet set up first.

Unfortunately, Coinmama’s simplicity is offset by the incredibly high fees charged for every transaction – 5.9% flat fee and an additional 5% for credit card purchases.

Get started on Coinmama.

Best Intermediate-Advanced Crypto Exchanges

Advanced exchanges offer a lot more information and power to the trader. Unlike simpler exchanges that give you a set price, advanced exchanges allow you to control your buy and sell orders. Meaning that you can choose to create orders at whatever price you want.

Some advanced crypto exchanges also offer pro features like margin and leveraged trading. Some allow you to bet against crypto prices by “shorting” an asset, and most have expert charting tools. Most allow you to trade between cryptocurrencies, where many of the beginner exchanges do not.

Binance

binance crypto exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 100+
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Any not on UN sanction lists
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, client-side account freezing
30d Volume (Fiat) $695,837,008.00
30d Volume (BTC) 180,701.00
Fees 0.1% flat fee

Launched in 2017, Binance quickly grew to become one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges on the planet.

Binance offers hundreds of crypto trading pairs so it’s perfect if you’re looking to get into some of the more obscure altcoins out there. It is crypto-to-crypto only, so you’ll have to load up your account with bitcoin or ethereum to get started; there’s no fiat currency option.

Edit: On January 16th, Binance launched Binance Jersey – a fiat-to-crypto exchange which allows buyers in the UK and Europe to trade with pounds and euros. 

There’s a “basic” exchange mode and an “advanced” mode, although even the basic mode requires some understanding of trading screens and cryptocurrency. Originally based in China, Binance has relocated to Malta after crypto crackdowns in China and Japan.

The 0.1% flat fee makes Binance a very competitive option.

Get started on Binance.

Kraken

Kraken exchange

Trading Type Both Fiat / Crypto and Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 72
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All but 7 countries
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, with the option for an additional recovery factor, PGP based email encryption and verification
30d Volume (Fiat) $92,208,762.00
30d Volume (BTC) 23,568.00
Fees Per currency Maker / Taker, low end around 0.0% / 0.25%

Based in the US and operating in Canada, Kraken is a large scale cryptocurrency exchange that serves almost the entire planet.

The Kraken exchange was recently crowned the most secure cryptocurrency exchange by cyber-security firm Group-IB. Kraken was the only exchange in the report’s top-tier group, essentially putting it in a security league of its own.

The report cited Kraken’s proof of reserves audits, private key storage, protection of customer data, and technical security details as key reasons for the ranking.

Among Kraken’s security features is the ability to have a second 2FA set up for account recovery, and the ability to use PGP to encrypt and verify email communication.

In terms of trading, Kraken offers 72 trading pairs and leveraged margin trading on bitcoin.

Get started on Kraken.

Coinbase Pro

CoinbasePro crypto exchange

Trading Type Both Fiat / Crypto and Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 25
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 31
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $93,599,262.00
30d Volume (BTC) 23,904.00
Fees Maker / Taker based on the last 30 days in a rolling window. Maker fee is always 0%, taker goes from 0.30% to 0.10%

Coinbase Pro is Coinbase’s bigger (but younger) sibling. It was recently known as GDAX until it changed to Coinbase Pro. The platform offers some very competitive low-end fees, meaning that if you expect to move a lot of crypto they are a good choice.

It comes with all the reputational clout of Coinbase, with its FDIC insurance and regulatory checklist. Coinbase Pro also features additional trading pairs not currently available on the basic Coinbase platform.

Coins like Golem (GNT), Decentraland (MANA), 0x (ZRX), and Basic Attention Token (BAT) are all available on Coinbase Pro, but not Coinbase.

Get started on Coinbase Pro.

Poloniex

Poloniex cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 116
Hacked before? Yes, see below
Available Countries All but three countries and a few US states
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $27,719,009.00
30d Volume (BTC) 7,764.00
Fees Maker / Taker. Minimum 0.0% / 0.1%, Maximum 0.1%, 0.2%

Poloniex is a relatively large cryptocurrency exchange based in the USA. Poloniex offers a pretty large amount of volume on its platform and backs it up with competitive fees. A good choice for any trader looking to move mid-to-large amounts of crypto.

Poloniex’s backend has been hacked once. After it happened the then-CEO was transparent, and promised that Poloniex would cover any losses, and discussed exactly how the hack took place.

The vast majority of funds are kept in “air-gapped cold storage” and suspicious activity is monitored closely.

As for trading, Poloniex offers one of the most advanced suite of trading tools and technical indicators. It was the first exchange to offer pre-fork trading on the two Bitcoin Cash protocols, providing a crucial gauge of investor support.

Get started on Poloniex.

Bittrex

Bittrex cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 288
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Almost all
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, IP and cryptocurrency address whitelisting, and client-side account freezing
30d Volume (Fiat) $42,818,083.00
30d Volume (BTC) 11,080.00
Fees 0.25% flat fee on all trades

Bittrex is a crypto exchange with decent volume, a good number of trading pairs, and above average security options. Specifically, the ability to whitelist IPs that can access your account and addresses you can withdraw to is very handy.

The exchange has never been hacked, which is the least you should expect from an exchange founded by three cybersecurity engineers! The vast majority of funds are stored in safe cold storage wallets.

Bittrex is designed for experienced traders, built with a scalable trading engine which executes orders in seconds. The flat 0.25% fee means you always know where you stand, too.

Get started on Bittrex.

Bitfinex

Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 100
Hacked before? Yes – Not that much response from Bitfinex
Security Features Almost all, none that are listed on UN sanctions
Available Security Two Factor Authentication or Universal Second Factor (Yubikey or similar), IP whitelist for accounts, PGP encrypted email
30d Volume (Fiat) 311
30d Volume (BTC) $311,032,908.00
Fees Maker / Taker based on your last 30 days volume. Maximum 0.1% / 0.2%, Minimum 0.0% / 0.055%

Bitfinex is a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange with expert-level features like spot trading and leveraged margin trading. You can leverage up to 3.3x (effectively borrowing money to increase your position). 

The charts on Bitfinex are particularly great, allowing to set your own patterns and set price alerts. The exchange also has high liquidity and large volume, meaning you can buy and sell without lag time.

Bitfinex was hacked in 2016 with $72 million worth of bitcoin stolen, but the exchange now has above-average security options. Specifically, the inclusion of U2F and PGP encryption for email is a welcome sight.

One thing we should note is that Bitfinex has been accused of artificially pumping bitcoin prices during the 2017 bull run.

Get started on Bitfinex.

Bitstamp

Bitstamp bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both, though mostly Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 14
Hacked before? Yes, employees’ credentials compromised. Bitstamp released an incident report, but it is no longer available.
Available Countries 56 for MasterCard transactions, no information otherwise.
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, a PGP key is offered for email encryption and email-based withdrawal confirmations.
30d Volume (Fiat) $93,538,791.00
30d Volume (BTC) 24,205.00
Fees Based on your last 30-day volume in USD. Ranges from 0.25% to 0.10%

Bitstamp started out in a garage, with $1,000 and two laptops in 2011. Fast forward to today, and it’s one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world.

Based in London, it’s an ideal option for British crypto traders. Bitstamp was one of the first fully-licensed digital cryptocurrency exchanges. That didn’t stop hackers in 2015 stealing $5 million from the exchange. The company did release an incident report to explain the situation, but it is no longer available.

Since then, it has implemented some strong security features. Namely, PGP encrypted communication and email based withdrawal confirmations stand out here. PGP is a must to verify the identity of who you are communicating with.

Get started on Bistamp.

Bithumb

bithumb cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto (specifically Korean won)
Trading Pairs 66
Hacked before? Yes
Available Countries All countries, though still only in KRW
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $1,419,838,544.00
30d Volume (BTC) 367.00
Fees Flat 0.15% fee

Caution: A recent report found evidence of wash trading on Bithumb – a manipulative practice to exaggerate its volume figures.

According to CoinMarketCap, Bithumb is the largest exchange by reported volume (at the time of writing). But there’s a catch – the only fiat option available is Korean won (KRW).  

Bithumb is open to all countries, but traders without a connection to South Korea will struggle to trade, as it is notoriously difficult to buy and sell KRW for other fiat currencies. Though this does leave an opening to buy KRW with crypto, assuming you have the crypto-side capital for it.

Bithumb has been hacked at least twice – first in June 2017 hitting 3% of all Bithumb users. And secondly, in June 2018, when $31 million was stolen from the exchange.

Get started on Bithumb.

CEX.io

Cex.io bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Crypto / Fiat
Trading Pairs 28
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All countries aside from 24 small countries and 27 States
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $7,056,167.00
30d Volume (BTC) 1,827.00
Fees Maker / Taker based on your last 30 days volume in BTC. Maximum fee of 0.16% / 0.25%, minimum fee of 0.0% / 0.1%

CEX.io is a UK based cryptocurrency exchange that sports a low but respectable volume and very competitive fees.

It offers an impressive dashboard for expert traders with margin trading, order-matching algorithms, and high-frequency trading for scalp traders.

It’s a good choice assuming what you are looking to trade is available in their somewhat small pool of trading pairs. 

Get started on CEX.io.

Bitpanda

bitpanda crypto exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 80
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All for buy / sell via Neteller, otherwise EU only
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, email confirmation for most account actions
30d Volume (Fiat) Not Reported
30d Volume (BTC) Not Reported
Fees Change often – Between 1% and 3%

Bitpanda is an Austrian cryptocurrency exchange and one of the most accessible options for traders in Europe. Bitpanda acts as a broker, meaning you’re purchasing the cryptocurrency from Bitpanda itself, rather than exchanging it with other users.

Bitpanda accepts euros, British pounds, Swiss francs, and US dollars and offers a decent array of cryptocurrencies. It has a slick user interface that is welcoming and relatively intuitive for users.

The only downside here is that their fees are somewhat high and they don’t report volume.

Get started on Bitpanda.

Coinsquare

Coinsquare crypto exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto (Specifically CAD)
Trading Pairs 9
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 1 – Canada only
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $7,058,585.00
30d Volume (BTC) 1,804.00
Fees Flat fee for makers and takers, 0.10% and 0.20% respectively

Coinsquare is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, built to cater directly to Canadian traders, meaning that external traders will find themselves falling flat. Security, however, is a high priority. Coinsquare has never been hacked and 95% of all funds are held in cold storage. 

Its trading functionality is somewhat basic, so experts will probably look elsewhere for superior features. 

Get started on Coinsquare.

HitBTC

HitBTC cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 803
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Almost all
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $222,941,259.00
30d Volume (BTC) 57,732.00
Fees Flat Maker / Taker fee structure: -0.01% / 0.1%

Caution: A recent report found some evidence of wash trading on HitBTC – a manipulative practice to exaggerate its volume figures. If correct, only 25% of reported trading volume on HitBTC is real.

HitBTC is a Chile-based cryptocurrency exchange that calls itself “the most advanced bitcoin exchange.” HitBTC offers incredibly competitive fees, a high amount of volume, and a good number of trading pairs. 

Unlike most other cryptocurrency exchanges, HitBTC offers a rebate for makers in their fee structure, meaning that makers receive 0.01% of the trade amount as a credit when a trade is made.

In terms of security, HitBTC offers 2-factor authentication, encryption technology, and cold storage. A 24-hour support team is also a nice touch.

However, the reports of manipulative wash trading should be taken into account before trading here.

Get started on HitBTC.

OKEx

OXEx crypto exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 412
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Accepts all countries
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $567,722,732.00
30d Volume (BTC) 146,920.00
Fees Complex Maker / Taker scheme

Caution: A recent report found evidence of wash trading on OKEx – a manipulative practice to exaggerate its volume figures. If correct, only 11% of reported trading volume on OXEx is real.

OKEx is a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange that offers a massive number of trading pairs with an equally large amount of liquidity to back it up.

OKEx was rated Crypto Exchange of the Year at last year’s Malta Blockchain Awards.

However, in a recent investigation, OKEx was considered “completely uninsurable” and ranked in the lowest bracket for security. Additionally, OKEx was singled out for manipulating its volume. A recent report found evidence of wash trading on at least 30 of its trading pairs.

Another downside here is a complex fee structure.

Get started on OKEx.

Conclusion

There are lots of factors to consider when picking the right crypto exchange: ease of use, security features, reputation, trading pairs and trading tools. Remember, when signing up to an exchange, you are trusting them with your funds. Always do your due diligence before you transfer any money.

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Ledger nano x bitcoin hardware wallet

Ledger, the world’s most popular crypto hardware wallet provider, has unveiled its next-generation product: Nano X.

The Nano X is an upgrade from the Nano S which sold over a million devices and featured in our best cryptocurrency wallets of 2018 roundup. The Nano X offers a host of new, improved features for safe bitcoin storage.

Here’s everything we know so far.

Ledger Nano X: Bluetooth Enabled

Ledger’s new hardware wallet will feature Bluetooth connectivity, allowing users to connect to a mobile device. The previous Nano S only connected to a laptop or desktop via USB.

It improves usability in a mobile-first world and it means the Nano X can be used on the go.

Ledger Live Mobile: A New Mobile App

Ledger will launch a mobile app to integrate with the device, Ledger Mobile Live. The app will enable users to make transactions and check their balance quickly.

In the past, Ledger users could only conduct transactions on the desktop software.

The app will be available on Google Play and Apple App Store on January 28th.

Bigger Screen

The Ledger Nano X features a larger screen than its predecessor. That’s a crucial upgrade as most of Ledger’s security features operate right there on the screen (PIN code access and transaction confirmations, for example).

The larger screen makes this process easier and more user-friendly. The buttons have also been moved from the top of the device to the front for a more intuitive experience.

1,100+ Coin Support

Like the previous device, Ledger’s Nano X will support more than 1,100 crypto assets.

However, the big problem with the Nano S is the inability to hold more than about ten cryptocurrencies at once on the device.

The Nano X aims to address that by increasing the memory.

Ledger nano x cryptocurrencies

Increased Memory: 100 Coins At One Time

By increasing the memory on the Ledger Nano X, users can hold significantly more cryptocurrencies at once.

That’s because Ledger stores each different crypto asset on its own wallet, using a separate app. It’s a security feature. If you want to hold bitcoin on a Ledger device, you’re not just storing bitcoin, you’re using memory to store a bitcoin wallet. If you then add ethereum, you also store an ethereum wallet or app.

The Nano X drastically increases the memory, meaning you can hold up to 100 different crypto assets at once.

Security

The introduction of Bluetooth might send alarm bells ringing for some. A wireless connection does increase the risk of an attacker hijacking the connection.

However, Ledger claims it is still highly secure due to Bluetooth’s short range and the device’s built-in security features. Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, CEO Eric Larchevêque said: 

“The Bluetooth connection is only used to send public data, such as your public key. The transaction itself is encrypted end-to-end while using the highest level of encryption and security on the Bluetooth protocol … no private keys are on the Bluetooth connection. It’s the same as the USB cable. Security-wise, the architecture is the same.”

The private keys are stored in a microchip that remains in the device at all times. Additionally, all the most important security checks (like PIN access) take place on the device or in the app. The device itself will only respond to the corresponding user app which should limit attacker access.

Price?

The Nano X will launch at $119 including shipping. Its predecessor, the Nano S, will get a price cut. 

The Ledger Nano X is available to pre-order now and will ship in March. The app will launch on January 28th. 

Technical Specifications

Size: 72mm x 18.6mm x 11.75mm

Weight: 34g

Compatibility: 64-bit desktop computer (Windows 8+, macOS 10.8+, Linux) or smartphone (iOS 9+ or Android 5+)

Chips: ST33J2M0 (secure) + STM32F042

Battery: 100mAh

Further reading: 12 Best Crypto Wallets (For Safe and Secure Bitcoin Storage)

proof of keys

Proof of Keys is a new movement that encourages all crypto users to withdraw their funds from centralized exchanges like Coinbase, Gemini, and others.

Initiated by investor Trace Mayer, the first ever Proof of Keys event will take place on 3rd January 2019 – the anniversary of the bitcoin genesis block – with a view to establishing an annual tradition.

To participate in the Proof of Keys movement, you simply need to withdraw any crypto you hold on an exchange and store it safely in a personal crypto wallet where you control the private keys instead.

Why Does Proof of Keys matter?

There are two main reasons for removing your crypto from exchanges on Proof of Keys day:

  1. To ensure cryptocurrency exchanges actually have the funds they claim. If everyone withdraws their crypto funds on the same day, crypto exchanges will be forced to pay out. If they fail to do so, it’s a huge red flag for exchanges that claim to store your money safely.
  1. To take control of your own crypto. As Andreas Antonopoulos said: not your keys, not your bitcoin. If all your bitcoin is stored on a crypto exchange, you don’t actually own the private keys; the exchange does. That means you’re not in control of your bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

Protect Against Hacks and Centralization

If you leave your funds on a cryptocurrency exchange, it’s much more vulnerable to hacks. $1 billion in crypto was stolen in 2018; the vast majority from crypto exchanges.

Exchanges are huge targets for hackers because they store vast amounts of crypto in one place. Instead, move your crypto to a personal wallet where it is much less vulnerable.

As Block Explorer previously reported, at least 25% of all litecoin in circulation is held by Coinbase. That’s a dangerously large amount of litecoin stored in one place. Not only that, but Coinbase technically owns all that litecoin; not you the depositor.

Proof of Keys is a, therefore, a practical and philosophical movement.

How to move your funds off an exchange

To withdraw funds, you’ll first need a wallet and a corresponding address.

The safest option is a hardware wallet from Ledger, Trezor or KeepKey. These are similar to external hard drives designed specifically for crypto storage. Since they’re offline most of the time, they’re difficult to hack (known as “cold storage”).

There are other wallet options that give you full control of your private keys including software desktop wallets and simple paper wallets.

Want more information? 12 best bitcoin wallets for safe and secure crypto storage

Once you have your wallet address, simply withdraw funds from the exchange to the wallet address.

Be aware that there may be high transaction volume on January 3rd which may cause congestion. You should also test the wallet address by sending small amounts of crypto to the wallet first.

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Monero cryptocurrency best privacy coin

Privacy is a topic that doesn’t come up as often as it should in the cryptocurrency world, which is funny, considering their cryptographic background. 

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have a reputation for anonymity, but they are not as private as you think. Most don’t offer any explicit or built-in privacy features. 

Take Bitcoin, for example. Every transaction is recorded in an open and public place – the blockchain. Due to this, a malicious actor can see every transaction ever made with a simple search. They can see every public address and potentially link it to a person’s true identity.

Your transactions can be traced in much the same way a bank can trace your transactions as they move through its system.

What Features Should a Privacy Cryptocurrency Have?

Now that we know why privacy is a good idea, let’s put together a wishlist of what we’d want in the perfect privacy cryptocurrency.

a. Opaque Transactions

Opaque transactions are those that do not show the sender’s address, the receiver’s address or the amount transferred. 

The rationale behind wanting opaque transactions is very simple, why should everyone be able to know who you are transacting with?

If a malicious actor knows who you are transacting with, they may be able to use that information to pressure you. Or, a malicious actor can figure out which addresses are worth attacking by looking at the amount being transferred in and out.

b. Provable Transactions

Opaque transactions are wonderful but sometimes you need to be able to prove to someone that the transaction was sent. For example, to prove that a donation took place, prove that you actually paid a vendor for goods or to prove a transfer to an escrow took place.

c. Default On Privacy

Having private transactions is great, but the next problem is getting people to use them. 

Only one privacy coin is automatically private right now. All others offer an option between a standard transfer and a private transfer.

If your privacy system requires extra steps to use, most users will end up taking the easier, less-private approach. 

Having some transactions be private and others not private simply draws attention to the ones made private. All transactions being the same makes the attacker’s job a lot harder, as there’s nothing drawing attention to itself.

default on privacy

d. Trustless

“Trustless” means not having a third-party store data or make the transaction. The current banking system, for example, is not trustless, because you must trust the bank to verify your funds and make the transaction on your behalf.

It’s a pretty standard request for any cryptocurrency, but more so for privacy cryptocurrencies due to the fact that any hole in the armor makes the entire cryptocurrency weakened at best. 

Any privacy cryptocurrency that requires a trusted setup should be considered very carefully.

e. Obfuscated IPs

One issue that doesn’t come up as often as it should, even some of the most private cryptocurrencies, is that your IP address is exposed to the network when you broadcast transactions. 

This means that someone listening very carefully can figure out where in the world a transaction came from, and potentially which transactions belong to you. From there they may or may not be able to find out further information about the addresses involved, and how much was transferred. In general, it’s a good idea to look as uninteresting as possible.

Keeping your IP to yourself, or using some sort of anonymization layer (like Tor, or I2P) is a good idea. For a privacy coin, having first-party support for such anonymization layers is definitely a plus.

Monero vs Zcash: Best Privacy-Oriented Cryptocurrencies

Now that we have some grounding in what it means for a cryptocurrency to be private and why privacy is a good thing. Let’s take a look at the two best-known privacy cryptocurrencies, Monero and Zcash, to see how they stack up against our wishlist.

Monero

Monero tends to be the flagship privacy cryptocurrency. It offers various features and covers our wishlist well.

Monero infographic

a. Does Monero Use Opaque Transactions? ✔

Monero’s transactions are opaque. They make use of a technology called Ring Signatures (and, more recently, Bullet Proofs) to hide the sender and amount transferred in a transaction. It does this by mixing various transactions together, creating “decoys” that are difficult, if not impossible, to trace back to a specific person

A one-time-use stealth address is also used for receivers so you can’t be linked to multiple transactions.

monero-ring-signature
Credit: BitcoinKeskus

b. Does Monero Offer Provable Transactions?  ✔

You can prove a transaction occurred on the Monero network by use of a view key, which can be created for both a single transaction and an address.

c. Is Monero Private by Default? ✔

Monero’s privacy model does not allow for non-private transactions to occur on the blockchain. No matter what, your transaction will be private, though you can share a key with others to allow them to look at your transactions in the same way your wallet does.

d. Is Monero Trustless? ✔

Monero’s entire network requires no external trust to use, assuming you are running your own node, anyway. Like with most cryptocurrencies using an external node for your transactions carries some risks around logging. Though even if your transactions are logged, they will remain private.

e. Does Monero Obfuscate IPs? ✘

Monero does not currently have any sort of built-in IP obfuscation. Meaning that your IP can be logged by other nodes when broadcasting transactions. 

Though there are some plans for this in Monero’s future, namely, a technology called Kovri which will route and encrypt transactions through I2P Invisible Internet Project nodes. 

For the moment, if it is required, IP obfuscation can be achieved via third-party anonymization tools like Tor and I2P.

Zcash

Zcash offers both private and transparent transactions. A few of the boxes in our wishlist are checked by Zcash, but unfortunately, some of the more major ones are not.

zcash transaction types

a. Does Zcash Use Opaque Transactions? ✔

ZCASH offers a completely private transaction, known as a “shielded” transaction. With a shielded transaction, neither the addresses or amounts involved are visible on the blockchain. To achieve this, Zcash uses a cryptographic technique called “zero-knowledge proofs.”

Monero also uses a version of zero-knowledge proofs, but Zcash’s system is different in that it requires a small level of trust in its setup. We discuss this in the fourth section below.

b. Does Zcash Offer Provable Transactions? ✔

When the private transaction type is used, those on the secure side can disclose information via an experimental system. It allows you to prove a transaction was made without revealing information about the sender. However, it’s not a simple process.

c. Is Zcash Private By Default? ✘

ZCASH’s privacy scheme is not on by default, meaning that some effort is required for its users to send private transactions. There are four different possible ways for a transaction to occur. Only one of which is completely private for both parties. The other three are sender private, receiver private, and completely public.

A private transaction takes longer and costs more in fees. However, a recent Zcash upgrade aims to reduce the friction and move Zcash to a privacy-by-default system.

d. Is Zcash Trustless? ✘

ZCASH’s zero-knowledge proofs, known as zk-SNARKs, do require trust of third parties. Specifically, some parameters need to be generated and the source material destroyed. The issue with this is that if the source material for the parameters is not destroyed, those that have it can use it to create verified transactions.

The risk is mitigated somewhat by making the source material distributed. That way any one person that helped generate the data can destroy their source material and render the rest useless. Though that does not make the fact that a trusted setup is required, which, in the world of cryptocurrency, is a bad idea.

e. Does Zcash Obfuscate IPs? ✘

Much like Monero, ZCASH does not currently support any built-in IP anonymization technologies. Though running a ZCASH node over Tor does work. So if you do need the additional privacy you have the option of using Tor.

Monero vs Zcash: Which is Better?

While Monero and Zcash have their merits, Monero takes the crown for privacy, checking all but one of the items off our list. But Zcash has more control over how your transactions are done, at the cost of always-on privacy. Zcash’s trusted setup is also questionable, but unlikely to cause an issue in all but the most extreme case.

Bottom line, It’s up to you as the user to decide what cryptocurrency to use. And to weigh pros and cons against your use case. If you want absolute privacy, Monero is your go to, there is nothing quite like it currently. Otherwise, if you want to be able to send both private and transparent transactions, consider Zcash.

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zcash-sapling upgrade

On Sunday October 28th, Zcash, a cryptocurrency network designed to enable private transactions, will deploy a system-wide upgrade called Sapling.

The upgrade will drastically improve the performance of its private, or “shielded,” transactions (reducing transaction construction time by as much as 90%).

Zcash currently allows users to choose between a lightweight “transparent” transaction or a heavier “shielded” transaction. The Sapling upgrade will make shielded transfers more efficient, moving Zcash further towards private transfers by default.

As one of the leading Zcash block explorers, we are fully prepared for the upgrade. Users needn’t worry – the block explorer will function just as it would normally.

To find out more, Block Explorer editor Ben Brown spoke to Brad Miller, head of ecosystem development at Zcash.

zcash sapling

Ben Brown: Can you briefly describe Zcash, its key features, and mission?

Brad Miller: Zcash is a privacy-protecting, digital currency built on strong science that is open source, censorship-resistant, and permissionless. 

We are creating a currency that empowers people from anywhere in the world to transact freely with whomever they choose giving them power over their money and their privacy. 

We implemented cutting-edge research in a field of cryptography known as zero-knowledge proofs performed by researchers at some of the most prestigious universities in the world to achieve these strong privacy features.

BB: From a user perspective, what will the Sapling upgrade achieve?

BM: The Sapling upgrade is our largest upgrade ever with significantly improved performance: a time reduction of 90% for constructing transactions, and a memory reduction of over 97%. 

Over time, as companies start implementing the massive efficiency improvements that Sapling enables, users will start to see shielded transactions become ubiquitous. 

The speed improvements that Sapling enables will even allow mobile phones to generate these shielded transactions, which up until this point required quite a bit of computational power only available to a laptop or desktop. 

We think this upgrade is the tipping point to move the Zcash ecosystem toward shielded transactions by default. 

zcash explained

BB: And from a technical perspective, what are you changing?

BM: This upgrade is a complete overhaul of our protocol to introduce these massive performance improvements. Instead of going into technical details I would really recommend those that are interested read our numerous blog posts on the innovations that we’ve introduced in Sapling.

BB: Do Zcash users need to do anything (e.g. migrate funds, upgrade software, change wallets etc.)?

BM: Most cryptocurrency users don’t run their own full node. My recommendations would be to confirm with your service providers for exchange services, wallets, and block explorers that they are ready for the upgrade. 

We have been working hard to make sure all service providers are prepared for the upgrade but I’m sure they would also like to hear the demand from their customers. 

If you do run a Zcash full node, upgrade your node to the latest release, v2.0.1. Users do not need to move their funds as they’re totally safe through this upgrade process.

BB: Will the upgrade result in a fork?

BM: This is a consensus change in the code so old versions of the software won’t be able to join the upgraded network. These upgrades are good for everyone in the ecosystem and there is no contention about the Sapling upgrade in general so we don’t anticipate a fork based on the older consensus rules to persist.

Further reading: What is Hard Fork in Cryptocurrency?

BB: You talk about Sapling moving you towards a “shielded ecosystem.” Can you explain what that means and why it’s so important?

BM: Zcash has two kinds of transactions. The first we call “transparent” transactions and they use an address that begins with a “t”. 

These transactions are almost identical to bitcoin in that they’re fast and efficient but they are totally public and don’t offer any privacy-preserving features. 

The second type of transaction, a “shielded” transaction, uses addresses that begin with a “z”. These shielded transactions provide strong privacy features. 

In order for the ecosystem to move away from using the transparent transactions, we had to upgrade Zcash with the kind of performance improvements that Sapling introduces. 

Now that shielded transactions will become more widespread, more individuals will have access to these private transactions therefore growing the overall private ecosystem. 

Our goal, in the long run, is for all transactions on the Zcash blockchain to be private.

BB: What is the Sapling turnstile and how does it help prevent counterfeiting?

BM: Part of the Sapling upgrade requires users to move any “shielded” funds they have from legacy Sprout addresses (the old system) to the new Sapling addresses if they wish to experience the performance improvements introduced in Sapling. 

We saw a great opportunity to audit the monetary supply of Zcash so we’ve implemented what we’re calling a turnstile in this process which prevents users from sending funds from an old Sprout address directly to a new Sapling address. 

Instead, they’ll have to move funds from a Sprout address to a transparent address, and then to a Sapling address. This process allows anyone to perform an audit of the blockchain which will make it easy to spot if any counterfeiting has been going on in the older Sprout shielded pool of funds. 

We obviously have some recommendations on how to do this to preserve privacy. Users should read more on our documentation website.

BB: Zcash was designed with scheduled breaking changes, is that correct? What type of updates did you have in mind when this was decided, and how does this compare to the upgrades made so far?

BM: We schedule older versions of our software to automatically shut down 16 weeks after release to motivate the node operators on the network to upgrade to the latest software version. 

This helps keep the node versions active on the network within a tight range and makes sure that the user experience across the network is consistent. 

Apart from that we also like to release new features regularly, we believe cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy and there are so many innovations yet to be introduced. 

We try to target a major release once every six months. This year, for instance, we released our Overwinter upgrade which made future upgrades much safer for the network and now Sapling is activating which represents the largest upgrade in our history. 

Moving technology forward and introducing improvements and features is extremely important for the growth of cryptocurrencies at this stage and we want to make sure we stay true to our core principles of quality and safety while also keeping pace with the latest cutting-edge research.

Sapling Upgrade is Fully Compatible With Block Explorer

The Sapling upgrade is due to go live on Sunday 29th October at block 419200.

Block Explorer is fully ready for the upgrade and you can continue to use the Zcash block explorer just as you would normally.

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