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What is MetaMask? And is it safe to use?

MetaMask is a cryptocurrency wallet that lets users store Ether and other ERC-20 tokens. A critical security risk concerning IP leaks was found this year and has left users worried. Is MetaMask safe?

Zen Bahar

Zen Bahar

What is MetaMask? And is it safe to use?

What is MetaMask?

MetaMask is installed as a browser extension and used as an Ethereum wallet. Users can make transactions with any Ethereum address, giving them access to the world of Web3, decentralized finance apps, (dApps) and NFTs.

Users can connect MetaMask to Ethereum-based dApps to spend coins in games and trade them on decentralized exchanges like Uniswap. With its simple interface and easy setup, MetaMask has amassed 21 million monthly active users, making it a favorite amongst cryptocurrency beginners. But is MetaMask safe?

How safe is MetaMask?

IP Leaks: the 2022 MetaMask security flaw

Earlier this year, a security analyst and cryptographer found a critical privacy vulnerability concerning user IP leaks. By sending an NFT to users of a mobile MetaMask wallet, a malicious actor can obtain a user's IP address. This is possible when MetaMask fetches IP address data from a centralized server.

Should we be worried about IP leaks?

Yes. The risks associated with IP leaks are dangerous and often underestimated. Malicious actors can derive information from your IP address like your geolocation, and frequently visited places. This information can easily be used to assist in physical attacks like kidnapping, stalking, and identity theft. Users are also at risk of having their crypto assets stolen.

Note: To our knowledge, MetaMask hasn’t declared a solution to this problem yet.

Other MetaMask concerns

MetaMask is a hot wallet

MetaMask is a crypto wallet that is connected to the internet. This makes it more vulnerable than offline wallets to hacking, theft, and phishing attacks. For instance, If you were to fall for a phishing email that infected your device with a keylogger or virus, then you could have your credentials and assets stolen.

MetaMask is a browser wallet

Browser plugins or extensions operate through your browser and are constantly connected to the internet. Being an online wallet, your browser will collect information about how and when you use MetaMask. This can be a potential privacy concern for cryptocurrency users.

MetaMask also holds private keys in your browser. While this makes the app easier to use, it presents serious risks if your browser is hacked.

Note: MetaMask uses open source code and can only be decrypted with your MetaMask password and secret phrase. It is important to consider that malicious actors can brute-force most passwords to reveal them.

4 ways to use MetaMask safely

The security of MetaMask depends on how secure your device is that you keep the wallet on, how safe your phrase key is, and your ability to spot a phishing email. Here are some safety tips:

1: Don’t store your passwords in your browser

If you store your passwords in your browser or device, don’t. If your browser or device gets hacked via malware it could expose your stored passwords. Your MetaMask assets are also at risk if your device is stolen.

What to do instead: Store your passwords and passphrases in a secure password manager. NordPass will store them in a decentralized encrypted vault that only you can access. It uses the state-of-the-art XChaCha20 encryption algorithm and includes a data breach scanner.

2: Use a hardware wallet with MetaMask

Store your coins in a hardware wallet and sync them with MetaMask. A hardware wallet is less risky than a digital wallet because your private keys and coins are stored offline.

Which hardware wallet to use: Good options include the Ledger Nano X, Trezor Model One, and SafePal S1. Most hardware wallets support multiple types of cryptocurrencies and connect via Bluetooth.

3: Learn to spot a scam

Phishing attacks are probably the easiest way to ransack a cryptocurrency wallet. If you click on a link that downloads malware onto your device, your assets could get stolen. A phishing link could also direct you to a fake version of the MetaMask website to steal your wallet credentials.

What to do: Always download MetaMask from the official website. It's also wise not to click on links within text messages or emails without checking the address. Here are some easy ways to spot a phishing email.

4: Scan for malware

Malware can live in your files. It can override your system, steal your passwords and cause your device to malfunction. The scariest part is that malware often goes undetected.

What to do: Get malware protection. Considering that you might have accidentally downloaded malware from a phishing email, NordVPN Threat Protection is a great way to protect your MetaMask wallet. It scans files you're downloading to stop malware in its tracks.

Online security starts with a click.

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Zen Bahar
Zen Bahar Zen Bahar
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Zen likes to use her cybersecurity knowledge to help protect the privacy and freedom of others, otherwise, you can find her playing with paints in her studio in London.