Buying Bitcoin

Perhaps you have heard that Bitcoin has reached a record high of nearly $50,000. Or maybe you heard that the Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, wants to pay city employees in the iconic cryptocurrency. Or even that Elon Musk’s company Tesla just bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin. What used to be the currency for hackers and ne'er-do-wells has become the lingua franca of the day, so (like me) you might be wondering what precisely Bitcoin is and how you can pocket some of your own.

What is Bitcoin

Bitcoin (BTC) was the first cryptocurrency, a decentralized digital currency that is not any part of any financial institutions—including banks and governments. Bitcoin has become mainstream thanks to a technology called Encryption. In his titular article on Bitcoin, inventor Satoshi Nakamoto[1] writes, “A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution." Here the goal of Bitcoin is to have the convenience of cash on the Internet. A customer pays for products and services from a retailer without a third-party intermediator like a bank. Moreover, if there is any dispute, the retailer can return the currency without going through an arduous banking return that takes several business days to process.

And since cryptocurrencies, like cash, are monetary exchanges without outside oversight, they are nearly untraceable. As such, these anonymous transactions have quickly become the desired payment of criminals everywhere. A few years ago, many of us had only heard about Bitcoin concerning ransomware attacks, such as the one suffered by the mother of New York Times contributor Alina Simone. "She’d managed to make a cash deposit via Bank of America to the unique Bitcoin ‘wallet’ provided by her ransomers, but since Bitcoin’s price is extremely volatile, her payment had already fallen $25 short by the time it arrived. (Credit and debit payments can take up to six days to process.)” To make up the difference, Simone had to find some obscure Bitcoin automated teller machine (ATM)— a nearly Herculean task back in 2015.

Acquiring Bitcoin 

These ATMs have come a long way from the little white box with nothing more than a camera, screen, and money slot inside a phone booth on the second floor of a co-op. Nowadays, we can conveniently find these in all kinds of convenience stores.

The Bitcoin ATMs have become much nicer and more ubiquitous.

Figure 1. A Bitcoin ATM inside a nearby gas station in Dade City, FL.

Avoid buying Bitcoin

However, no matter how convenient buying Bitcoin becomes, the best solution for dealing with ransomware is to avoid it getting onto your computer in the first place. Look out for suspicious emails and avoid downloading attachments from unknown senders. However, more than that, the best practice is to ensure that your computers are up to date with the latest patches, use high-quality antimalware software, and are frequently backed up. Ensuring that all your computers are constantly updated and backed up may seem like a lot of work, but this is where your professional IT experts, such as we here at NexgenTec, are invaluable.

Speaking of invaluable, instead of just being the currency of cyber-criminals and Silicon Valley, major investment firms have begun including BTC in financial portfolios, such as the $100 million in Bitcoin that Mass Mutual recently purchased to add to its investment portfolio. Even the NASDAQ has suggested that Bitcoin is worth adding to a person's portfolio (so long as this person doesn't go overboard). So how do we get in on this Bitcoin action?

My journey started on February 10th when I read a piece where I could “discover crypto in the PayPal app” for as low as $1! Excited to have my very own fraction of Bitcoin and having some money in PayPal that I earned from completing Google Surveys, I took $5 ($5.50 actually as PayPal charges a fee for this service) and bought 0.00011251 BTC. As of this writing, I’ve almost made my money back (ignoring the service fee that PayPal will charge me to convert this fraction of Bitcoin back).

You will be even wiser than me and learn about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by going to Coinbase, the largest digital currency exchange in the United States. And oddly enough, if you sign up with Coinbase at the time of this writing, they will give you … your very own $5 in Bitcoin!


[1] Most people believe that Satoshi Nakamoto is not an actual person but rather a pseudonym for a person or persons still unknown.