Prominent women in the business of Bitcoin

It’s not exactly a secret nowadays: Female entrepreneurs are working on an uneven playing ground, where systemic disadvantages present countless obstacles to financial success.

When it comes to embracing new technological advancements in the world of finance, women have an additional set of problems; they have to contend with the negative perception that Bitcoin has unfairly developed, as well as security concerns.

Indeed, cryptocurrencies, in general, have a shady reputation in the eyes of many consumers. In fact, a quarter of all Americans believe they are used primarily for illegal transactions, likely due to the fact that they can be designed to be untraceable. Nevertheless, Bitcoin cannot be ignored. It is and will continue to be a key part of business transactions and investments going forward.

What are some of the specific concerns that female entrepreneurs have to deal with in regards to Bitcoin? How can they circumvent common pitfalls of dealing with cryptocurrencies? Here is a look at the issue, including stories of prominent women who succeeded in the face of adversity on multiple fronts:

Following Cybersecurity Best Practices

Recent high-profile data breaches have affected major organizations and businesses, including Equifax, Uber, and Adobe. For any business that will store either business or customer data online — especially mobile app startups — cybersecurity threats can bring business and profits to a standstill. This is especially important to keep in mind as a female entrepreneur, as statistically speaking, women are less likely to be aware of cybersecurity threats.

In order to remedy this problem, female professors from Tennessee Tech and the University of Memphis, with support from the National Science Foundation, began a collaborative project in 2013 named Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) to support women in the cybersecurity industry. Founder Dr. Ambareen Siraj said that the mission of the project is to, “increase the pipeline of women security professionals and improve the diversity of our cybersecurity workforce.” As an entrepreneur, it pays off to hire cybersecurity professionals, and hiring female experts is an excellent progressive move.

Following cybersecurity practices is a must. Some cybersecurity basics include teaching each employee security basics and understanding the risks of the internet of things. Employees shouldn’t leave devices unattended, nor should they use potentially infected personal devices to access sensitive information. Have strict policies in place for when and where employees can access business or client data. Furthermore, teach the basics of setting a secure password and using authentication apps/devices. Finally, have employees regularly update software to ensure that any recent security updates are installed.

Internet-enabled devices present new security vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit. Research devices before purchasing them, and ensure that sensitive business or client information isn’t transmitted to devices via unsecured connections. These are a couple concerns that female entrepreneurs must keep in mind when conducting business.

Bitcoin and the Problems of Ransomware

Women are playing an increasingly important role in the world of cryptocurrencies, as evidenced by the fact that some of the largest coin offerings last year had female co-founders, including Blythe Masters, Elizabeth Stark and Maxine Ryan.

According to Masters, “You should be taking (cryptocurrencies) as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the internet in the early 1990s.”

While this level of engagement is encouraging, it is essential that female entrepreneurs who decide to use Bitcoin take cybersecurity measures seriously.

Bitcoin leaves businesses especially vulnerable to a specific threat: ransomware. Ransomware occurs when fraudsters use phishing strategies to trick users into downloading malicious software that encrypts data and, as the name implies, holds it for ransom. Users are locked out of the data until they pay a substantial fee. Ironically enough, they usually require payment in Bitcoin. Worse, these payments are often diverted to other cybercriminals.

For example, one industry that needs to be especially cautious of ransomware is the healthcare sector. As noted in a resource by Bradley University, “criminals are interested in healthcare data due to its high monetary worth on the black market.”

If this data gets into the wrong hands, hospitals (and patients) could suffer due to HIPAA violations. Healthcare organizations and businesses can avoid such disasters by providing HIPAA compliance training, assigning role-based security levels, and understanding the rules of sending private health information via digital means.

Using Bitcoin calls for a few precautions

From a practical standpoint, cryptocurrency expert Elizabeth Stark argues for the implementation of a layer-two of transactions that enable a high volume of quick, secure payments. Furthermore, it’s wise to keep Bitcoin information — including private keys and currency — on a physical device that is unconnected from the internet, such as a USB drive or external hard drive.

This practice is referred to as “air gapping,” and it’s one of the few guaranteed ways to prevent unauthorized access to information.

Be sure to encrypt any data stored in this manner in case the device is lost or stolen. If you need instant access to cryptocurrency on short notice, consider keeping a small amount accessible via cloud storage, then storing the rest.

If you have questions, the best way to find answers is to be a part of the ongoing discussion regarding cryptocurrency. Entrepreneur Maxine Ryan states that “The people in this community are worldwide and they are seriously passionate about teaching others what this industry is all about. The excitement in the community about getting people involved to spread the word—it’s really interesting. The best way to learn is to teach yourself.”

Going forward, women in business must continue to make strides by embracing the benefits of cryptocurrency, but they must do so with security concerns in mind. Analysts predict a new wave of cyber attacks in 2018, and new methods of intrusion necessitate new security precautions. Blaze a trail in the business world by not only embracing new advancements, such as cryptocurrency but by doing so in a sustainable way.