What is cryptocurrency? Here’s a beginners’ guide

Need to know

  • Cryptocurrency is a type of digital foreign money that is not held as bodily notes and cash
  • The world of cryptocurrencies may be technical, dangerous and unstable, so learners must take nice care and do numerous analysis in the event that they need to enter the market
  • Cryptocurrencies have a large carbon footprint as a result of they require huge quantities of laptop processing – one thing for ecologically aware traders to remember

Hardly a week goes by with out a cryptocurrency story within the information, whether or not it is hype about investing in digital currencies, regulators seeking to monitor earnings or governments grappling with recognise it as legit foreign money.

Equally, there are the tales of untamed fluctuations within the worth of cryptocurrency, the scams, and traders shedding large sums of cash.

Volatility goes hand in hand with cryptocurrency as a result of its worth is not tied to any exterior measure, it is not regulated in Australia, nor is it recognised as authorized tender. This means the worth may be affected by a vary of exterior components, from media bulletins to movie star traders.

If you are seeking to dip a digital toe within the water, here is the important info to arm your self with.

What is cryptocurrency?

To start with, it is price figuring out that cryptocurrency is as a lot about expertise because it is about cash. So, to get a deal with on understanding the workings of cryptocurrency, it is important to have an understanding of the underlying expertise. Wading into the market with none technical data and expertise is dangerous and never advisable.

Wading into the market with none technical data and expertise is not advisable

Technically talking, cryptocurrency is a type of digital foreign money that is not held as bodily notes and cash. Rather, it is in digital, or digital, kind and is encrypted as a ‘information string’, from the place it derives the identify cryptocurrency.

Virtual accounting system of blockchain

One of the defining options of cryptocurrency is that transactions are made and recorded in what’s referred to as a ‘blockchain’ – that is, a digital ledger, akin to a digital model of an accounting ledger. It is also referred to as a ‘distributed ledger’ as a result of the database is shared amongst a community of computer systems.

Cryptocurrency transactions are peer to look, generally known as ‘decentralised’ transactions, as there is no central monetary establishment managing or regulating the transactions. The distributed ledger acts as an immutable, unanimous report of all transactions and is accessible to anybody to entry.

What is ‘mining’ on the earth of cryptocurrency?

To the uninitiated, cryptocurrency is an opaque world of digital cash, filled with extremely technical ideas. Like many issues at present, it requires individuals to come back to grips with new varieties of expertise.  

When a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is exchanged between customers or new cash are created, it depends on a course of referred to as ‘mining’ that makes use of computer systems to unravel cryptographic equations, or hashes, to validate the transaction or the brand new cash. 

The transactions are recorded within the digital ledger as blocks, or the strings of information, every time the crypto code is solved, thus creating the blockchain. Those within the community can confirm that the blocks are legitimate. 

To mine cryptocurrency, customers run particular laptop software program that is designed to unravel difficult, cryptographic mathematical equations.


Cryptocurrency is as a lot about expertise because it is about cash.

Where do cryptocurrencies come from?

Digital currencies had been first mooted within the Nineteen Eighties, though there wasn’t a lot widespread take-up. In 1998 laptop engineer Wei Dai outlined the fashionable model of cryptocurrencies. 

Following this, in 2009 a white paper outlining the basics of blockchain and the primary digital foreign money, Bitcoin, was revealed below the pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’. But it is unclear whether or not this was a single individual or group, as their true identification has by no means been confirmed.

Governments and regulators are grappling with cope with digital currencies as traders danger theft, scams and wild foreign money fluctuations

Since then, quite a few others have been launched becoming a member of Bitcoin in a rising market of cryptocurrencies all over the world. The unfold has meant governments and regulators are grappling with cope with digital currencies, as traders danger theft, scams and wild foreign money fluctuations which can be all too widespread.

How do crypto networks and property work?

To perceive the nuts and bolts of how cryptocurrency works, it helps to take a single transaction for example.

Step 1. Transfer directions created

A transaction begins as an piece of email from Person A to the community that specifies the amount of foreign money to be despatched to Person B, handle (like a crypto account quantity) and time stamp that information when the block was mined and validated.

Step 2. Transaction is able to be processed

All current transactions will probably be grouped into a block, which is become a cryptographic code, then ‘miners’ work to unravel the code to confirm it for processing.

Step 3. Build blocks of the blockchain

When the cryptographic hash, or code, is resolved, this new block of transactions is added to the blockchain, or distributed ledger, for that foreign money.

Step 4. Funds arrive

Once the transaction is confirmed, the cryptocurrency quantity as specified within the authentic directions is transferred to the recipient, Person B.

What are the totally different cryptocurrencies?

Bitcoin would possibly occupy most of the headlines, but it surely’s in no way the one cryptocurrency there is. There are mentioned to be greater than 10,000 several types of cryptocurrencies, every with its personal options and makes use of. Here are a few of the extra widespread ones:


This is considered the unique cryptocurrency and has change into a international system for funds by way of the community of Bitcoin miners. Computers within the community use software program to validate transactions and earn Bitcoins by way of this mining course of. 1BTC is price about $63,000 as of April 2022, in keeping with monitoring website CoinDesk.


Ether is the cryptocurrency that runs on the Ethereum community and is capable of deal with funds together with contracts and another applications. Miners can earn Ether that can be utilized for funds within the community. 1ETH is equal to $4494.


This was modified from Bitcoin and is one other cryptocurrency and international fee community. It has a quicker processing pace and extra cash in circulation than Bitcoin. 1LTC equals $172 as of April 2022.


XRP is a purpose-built digital asset designed as a funds community for quick, permission-free transactions that the builders say can course of in three to 5 seconds. 1XRP is equal to $1.14 as of April 2022.

How do you make investments?

To commerce in cryptocurrencies – that is, to purchase or promote – that you must do that on a crypto buying and selling platform utilizing authorized cash to purchase an quantity of a explicit foreign money. This will probably be saved in a digital pockets that incorporates the codes, or non-public keys, wanted to authorise transactions to the blockchain community. 

Crypto pockets

A crypto pockets will retailer every transaction and in addition monitor your particular person cryptocurrency stability. Some wallets can retailer quite a few totally different cryptocurrencies; others are connected to a explicit asset and can solely retailer that one sort of cryptocurrency. 

Cold/{hardware} pockets

A pockets that is not frequently on-line is also referred to as a ‘chilly pockets’ or a ‘{hardware} pockets’. These are downloaded and reside offline on a piece of {hardware} resembling a USB drive or smartphone. A ‘scorching’ or ‘software program’ pockets is at all times stay and linked to the web, and due to this fact any foreign money saved in them is at larger danger of theft or hacking.

The several types of pockets

There are several types of pockets that allow you to commerce in crypto.

Desktop wallets resembling Electrum, Exodus and Copay/Bitpay run from a laptop and require a lengthy string of phrases, generally known as the ‘seed phrase’, which is the premise of the privateness crypto key used to unlock transactions.

App-based wallets resembling Coinomi or Edge are extra geared towards utilizing crypto when making funds. But word that shedding a cellphone with a crypto app may let somebody entry your cash.

Not all crypto buying and selling platforms are registered in Australia and there is no recourse if one thing goes mistaken

Online (or ‘scorching’) wallets normally belong to a cryptocurrency alternate and are accessible from any internet-connected gadget, which may be a goal for cyber criminals.

Crypto exchanges are the opposite approach of buying and selling in cryptocurrencies, the place transactions and the privateness key are held within the alternate. But these may be dangerous as a result of they are often hacked – there are lots of examples of exchanges resembling crypto.com having hundreds of thousands of {dollars} price of crypto stolen.

Why are there so many warnings about cryptocurrency?

The cryptocurrency market has been likened to the digital Wild West and it is had its justifiable share of scams and hacks. It’s actually a high-risk funding, given the unimaginable value volatility and million-dollar thefts. 

$129m in scams

It’s clear that scams are on the rise because the curiosity in cryptocurrencies grows. In 2021, crypto scams topped $129 million, and when the worth of a foreign money hits a excessive, so too do the scammers, with many seeking to goal new, inexperienced customers. Any crypto-related scams ought to at all times be reported to ScamWatch.

Lack of regulation

At the second, many crypto property will not be thought-about monetary merchandise and are due to this fact not regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). 

Cryptocurrencies will not be recognised as authorized tender in most currencies and, once more, this implies any authorized protections round theft or scams will probably be fairly restricted. Hackers have focused crypto exchanges as a result of a single hit can internet hundreds of thousands of {dollars} which can be completely misplaced and by no means recoverable as a result of crypto transactions will not be reversible.

Cryptocurrencies will not be recognised as authorized tender in most currencies… this implies any authorized protections round theft or scams will probably be fairly restricted

The platforms to purchase and promote crypto property are unlikely to be regulated by ASIC, whereas when buying and selling by way of the ASX there are working necessities laid out in legislation. 

Also, not all crypto buying and selling platforms are registered in Australia and there is no recourse by way of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) if one thing goes mistaken. The Australian authorities has introduced plans to control components of the business, but it surely’s unlikely we’ll see any new legal guidelines handed till 2023. 

Carbon value of cryptocurrencies

Finally, there’s the problem of the environmental footprint of cryptocurrency, because it requires laptop processing to mine transactions, which all have to be powered. Bitcoin alone has a carbon footprint equal to that of the Czech Republic, emitting 114 megatons of carbon dioxide in a 12 months, in keeping with the Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index.

So will we purchase groceries with crypto sooner or later?

There’s usually a headline-grabbing story or two about a new Bitcoin ATM or retailer accepting funds. But past the hype, crypto is energy hungry, weak to crimes and scams, and nonetheless accounts for a tiny share of viable financial transactions. 

Although many governments and regulators have crypto of their sights for taxation, cash laundering and monetary safety, we’re a great distance from utilizing crypto on the grocery store. 

The key to wider acceptance will probably be ensuring that regulation and protections maintain tempo with technological advances, and that crypto’s makes use of enchantment to on a regular basis consumers and traders.


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About the Author: Daniel