What is cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a digital currency for which encryption techniques are used to regulate its use and generate its release. Unlike fiat currency — like US dollars, euros and yen — cryptocurrency is not regulated or controlled by any bank, government or centralized financial authorities.
Instead, it relies on the power of the Internet to guarantee its value and confirm transactions. Users on a network verify every transaction, and those transactions then become a matter of public record. This prevents the same digital currency or coin from being spent twice by the same person.
How can I buy and use cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a volatile market, with exchange rates that can wildly fluctuate by day, and sometimes by hour. Bitcoin is the better-known and most valuable cryptocurrency out there, but there are many others to explore, including litecoin, peercoin, dogecoin, monero and ripple.
When you buy or receive cryptocurrency, you are given a digital key to the address of that currency. You can use this key to access and validate or approve transactions.
You need a place to keep your key safe, which is where a cryptocurrency wallet comes in.
You have a variety of cryptocurrency wallets to choose from:
Desktop wallets. Software like Cryptonator allows you to send and store cryptocurrency addresses and also connects to the network to track transactions.
Online wallets. Cryptocurrency keys are stored online by exchange platforms like Coinbase or Circle and can be accessed from anywhere.
Mobile wallets. Apps like Blockchain store and encrypt your bitcoin keys so that you can make payments using your mobile device.
Paper wallets. Some websites offer paper wallet services, generating a piece of paper with two QR codes on it. One code is the public address at which you receive cryptocurrency, and the other is your private address you can use for spending.
Hardware wallets. You can use a USB device created specifically to store bitcoin electronically and your private address keys.