What is MetaMask? Tips for protecting your wallet
MetaMask is a crypto wallet, the first thing needed to connect to the decentralized world of cryptocurrencies and NFTs. It is a popular service, opening doors to almost any Ethereum-based platform. For instance, MetaMask is an option if you enjoy various play-to-earn games, rewarding participants with crypto.
However, users wonder whether this digital wallet is safe, especially after a critical privacy vulnerability made IP leaks possible. Furthermore, you can encounter other threats, like Ponzi-like operations or spoofing. Let’s review how to keep your wallet safe from scams, leaks, and malicious activities.
What is MetaMask?
MetaMask is a free hot cryptocurrency wallet designed to work with the diverse Ethereum network. The service is widely popular for managing, receiving, and sending Ethereum or Ethereum tokens. Users also have the option to access decentralized apps (dApps) via MetaMask.
The MetaMask service is compatible with Android and iOS. Users can also handle their crypto assets via an extension on Firefox, Chrome, Brave, or Edge.
How does MetaMask work?
MetaMask does not require a complex setup or lengthy sign-up process.
- You can install it like a mobile application or a browser plugin.
- Then, you can create a hot wallet, which will always be available online.
- You will receive a secret recovery phrase. It is for situations when you want to install MetaMask on another browser/smartphone or restore funds.
- It is essential to copy the secret recovery phrase and save it somewhere safe.
- After setting up a wallet, you will see your address. It is like your bank account number that others will need to transfer crypto.
- It is also possible to change the name of your wallet if necessary.
- You can connect specific sites to your MetaMask funds. For instance, OpenSea is one of the biggest NFT marketplaces. Thus, it can be a daily hangout for crypto enthusiasts.
Three secret details safeguard MetaMask accounts:
- The secret recovery phrase. This code will be instrumental in restoring your crypto wallet.
- The password. Users create a password that protects the application. So, the secret recovery phrase is relevant in case of emergencies. However, the password is much more mundane, used whenever you want to unlock MetaMask apps.
- Private keys. Each MetaMask account gets a unique private key. With it, users can import accounts into a different wallet.
Hot or cold crypto wallet?
MetaMask is a hot wallet, meaning it is always connected to the internet. Since many threats burden the digital ecosystem, criminals could compromise such wallets.
For instance, unsafe networks, system vulnerabilities, or unpatched browsers could be gateways to trouble. It is also common for hackers to use phishing strategies or other deceptive methods to steal secret recovery phrases, passwords, or private keys.
Thus, online wallets like MetaMask face such dangers. If you wish to protect your crypto assets, there are options for connecting hardware (cold) wallets to MetaMask. For example, it is possible to pair it with Trezor.
The result is that you will own a cold and a hot wallet. Preferably, you should keep hefty crypto sums in the cold wallet. The hot MetaMask wallet should contain funds you plan to spend soon.
Security concerns with MetaMask
MetaMask users have a responsibility to keep their wallets secure. Of course, the service must deal with emerging vulnerabilities and improve its functionality. However, more than a few incidents can occur if users do not stay vigilant.
IP leaks due to a security flaw
Analysts have reported on a threatening MetaMask security vulnerability. Essentially, hackers or scammers could obtain users’ IP addresses by airdropping NFTs.
Knowing the expected nature of blockchain, users likely value their anonymity and privacy. Unfortunately, exposure to this prominent online identifier could reveal details people would prefer to keep secret. For instance, users’ IP addresses can show their approximate location. We did not find reliable sources for whether MetaMask has patched this vulnerability.
Crypto wallet as a browser extension
MetaMask is open source and has gone through audits to prove its reliability. Thus, the apps and extensions are likely safe and trustworthy. However, browser extensions could be less private than expected. For instance, browsers can collect information about how you use MetaMask and other tools.
Sweeping or scavenging
Sweeping or scavenging is a threat when a malicious entity taints your wallet with a script. The latter aims to monitor transactions broadcast to the network and the transaction pool of pending ones.
The scavenging scripts could initiate a new transaction before the system completes the original. Thus, it seems that these scripts could redirect funds to a wallet belonging to criminals. This attack is possible if MetaMask users share their recovery phrases with unreliable parties.
Phishing is one of the biggest threats to crypto owners. Essentially, criminals can spoof their identities and pretend to originate from official sources, like MetaMask support. However, remember that even legit consultants will never ask you to reveal your password or recovery codes.
Airdropping scams refer to the suspicious moments when an unknown party has sent you some tokens. Sadly, it is not that someone felt generous to reward you with crypto. Instead, it is an attempt to steal funds or retrieve secret recovery phrases. However, it can be a legitimate marketing strategy promoting a new token.
The scam flourishes if users attempt to perform a swap of the received tokens. Malicious entities hope that people will visit third-party sites, which could then require users’ recovery codes. In other cases, deceptive confirmation messages could take your tokens instead of giving them.
How to use MetaMask safely
The security of hot wallets like MetaMask depends on the user. So, remember these recommendations when managing your crypto assets.
Test the secret recovery phrase
Before keeping crypto assets in your wallet, try using your recovery or private keys. That will show you whether they will work if you need to import or restore your account.
Do not store your recovery phrase in browsers
If hackers obtain access to your device, they could extract passwords. Additionally, there are ways to compromise codes your browser stores.
Lock your MetaMask wallet when not in use
Prevent having your account exploited without your knowledge. Make it a rule to keep it locked whenever you do not actively use it.
Never reveal passwords, recovery phrases, or private keys to anyone
Even MetaMask support does not require recovery phrases. So, there is no reason to share secret codes with anyone.
Consider getting a cold (hardware wallet)
You can connect MetaMask with hardware wallets like Trezor or Ledger. The secure option is to operate both cold and hot wallets.
Avoid revealing your cold wallet to sites
For receiving or sending crypto assets, use your hot wallet. Cold wallets should be unknown in the online world, mostly for keeping crypto safe.
Update browsers and smartphones
Vulnerabilities on your phone or browser could facilitate exploitation of your MetaMask account. Therefore, keep these programs and operating systems running the latest versions.
Learn more about common scams against MetaMask users
Fraudsters continue crafting cunning and elaborate scams. So, stay on top of the new tricks they could use against you.
Never click on suspicious links
It is possible to confirm smart contracts via clicks unknowingly. So, one unfortunate click could connect wallets to websites, initiating fraudulent transactions.
Use a VPN to mask your IP address
A VPN lets you change your IP address by connecting to a remote server. Thus, your location details will remain hidden even if your wallet or other digital service leaks them.