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6 apps to get you started on crypto

There are many different cryptocurrencies, the most popular being Bitcoin and Ether, but they’re all based on similar technology. These currencies are digital, so there are no notes or coins to deal with. They’re also protected by cryptography (hence the name), which means transactions are encoded in such a way that counterfeiting is highly complicated.

Most cryptocurrencies are built on what is known as a blockchain, which is a term you’ll come across a lot. This is often described in simple terms as a digital ledger: It shows all past and current transactions and protects the security of the exchanges. Blockchains are anonymous—they don’t show details of the buyer or what they’re buying, but you can easily see the flow of crypto (how assets move from hand to hand). No one can edit this record without breaking the entire system.

This strong security is one of the key benefits of cryptocurrency. But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk—major hacks and thefts do happen, mainly due to security vulnerabilities in exchanges, or through scams that trick users into revealing login information. One way to think about it is like Gmail: Google deploys high-level security measures to make it very hard to hack into its servers, but someone can still trick you into sharing your username and password.

Cryptocurrencies are also decentralized, which means they’re not stored in any single location or controlled by any government. This has its pros and cons—while they are free from the interference of authorities and banks, they’re also highly volatile and not officially recognized by most institutions. You shouldn’t get into cryptocurrency without understanding that exchange rates between crypto and traditional money can go up and down very quickly.

That’s crypto 101 for you. Still, you can dig deeper and you’ll find the nuances and differences between currencies. You can find plenty of information online about the different cryptocurrencies, their current exchange rates, and whether they’re the right investment for you.

How to get cryptocurrency
To get many of the most notable cryptocurrencies, people have to mine them. This means they get crypto as a prize for validating security on the network, a job that gets more and more complicated as time goes by and the blockchain grows. To do this validation, miners require high-powered computers, which is why you’ll see huge Bitcoin farms packed with machines to work through the necessary calculations around transactions.

At this point, validating demands a large amount of computing power, not to mention a considerable amount of energy. This makes setting up a mining farm very expensive and no longer worth it for individuals to get involved. There’s also the question of the environmental impact of these digital coins—even the greener versions—which may motivate more climate-conscious users to stick to buying and selling.

The cryptocurrency apps you need
With mining no longer an option for most people, the majority of cryptocurrency apps focus on buying and selling. At one end of the scale are the apps that give you the most control over your purchases, with more currencies and more options available. At the other end of the scale are apps that are easier to use, but limit you in terms of which cryptocurrencies you can buy and what you can do with them.

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