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A gift for you!

I love to give gifts and share my art with others, but becuase my art uses Ethereum and Ethereum smart contracts, there’s a little bit of a process involved.

I was a teacher and professor for many years, so please allow me to teach you how to securely accept and protect my art. I promise it won’t hurt!

In the next section, I’ll give you a little primer on the topic, and then we’ll get into the steps for you to follow on your own. You can do it! And of course, if you ever have a question, just reach out. 🙂 

Tintype portrait by Will Harlan Campbell.

The Basics

Ethereum is a cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) but it’s different in that it also allows ‘smart contracts’ or simple pieces of code to be run on it. Originally designed for decentralized finance applications, some crazy artists (being crazy artists) decided to instead use it to track digital art assets. The way it works is by using NFTs or non-fungible tokens (tokens that are unique from all others). This tech has many benefits for digital artists, and I have embraced it! My artwork ‘rides’ on NFTs.

The Challenge

The tricky part to sharing my work is that it requires a self-custodial Ethereum wallet. This is both a technical hurdle for people to overcome and a security risk because of the transparent nature of the Ethereum cryptocurrency. I can walk you through proper set up and tell you about how you can prevent being scammed, but this is really just the beginning of a crypto-journey. With continued use of the tech and time, you may find yourself ‘upgrading’ your security procedures. I’ll get you to a place far beyond most users though, so pre-emptive high-five!

Key Terms

I’ll be using these terms, please read over them and refer back as necessary.

  • Seed Phrase: this is a series of words that generates a crypto account. You write it on paper, and you never share the phase with anyone. You never store the text digitally, and you never take a picture of the paper. You never type the phrase into anything other that official wallet software. Never share it or store it in a way where it can be seen by others. It is the key that generates your account. If anyone gets the seed phrase, they get your account. Note that seed phrase can generate hundreds of accounts, and it’s a one-way operation. Accounts can not retrieve the seed phrase and nave no knowledge of the seed phrase that made them. If you lose your seed phrase, you can lose your crypto (assets).
  • Wallet: Think of a wallet like an actual card wallet – capable of holding various debit and credit cards – accounts. These different accounts are accessed through one device, a wallet. There are software based wallets (Metamask, Rainbow wallet, etc), and hardware based wallets (Ledger, Trezor, Grid+, etc). These wallets can generate seed phrases or import seed phrases. Frequently, people might use the word ‘wallet’ to mean both wallet and account, but they are not being specific. Wallets are the means to manage accounts. Hardware wallets are designed to have higher protection than software wallets. Please be careful with googling these wallets – scammers can post phishing ads on search engines. Please instead follow the links I post below. If you want to explore using crypto with good security, you should buy a hardware wallet from a trusted vendor and start using it as soon as possible.
  • Account: This is the place where you can actually store assets, and it can be accessed through a wallet. An account can receive assets passively, but to send them, it must ‘sign’ a transaction. All accounts are separate. If one is compromised, only those assets stored within it are compromised – other accounts are safe (but if seed-phrase associated with that account is compromised, all accounts it generated/can generate are compromised). Most people use multiple accounts, and I advise using between 2 and 3.
  • Gas: Activities on Ethereum result in transactions, and having the network process these transactions have a gas cost (paid in the native currency of Ethereum, Eth). Just like real world gasoline, the price of gas can fluctuate: in Ethereum’s case, it fluctuates with network usage. Sending a transaction during a period of high network activity will cost more Eth than if the network had less activity. Gas can only be spent from the account that is sending the transaction, basically, one of your accounts cannot pay the gas for another one of your accounts’ transactions. Ethereum gas fees go to block validators for including your transaction in the blockchain.
  • Signing Transactions: Your account must ‘sign’ off on transactions, essentially proving that your account approves of the transaction. Sometimes, signatures are requested without sending a transaction, these are zero fee activities that allow you to ‘sign in’ to web3 websites. There are many things an Ethereum user can sign, and sometimes it can be confusing exactly what an account is signing. Scammers take advantage of this, and there are many instances of phishing websites that pretend to be legitimate web3 portals. They can trick a user into signing a malicious transaction, which gives them access to the account’s assets. It is important to always verify you’re on official websites and portals that you can trust. There are tools to help protect you, but you must be aware of the risk so that you’re not careless.

Eth. Asset Self Custody Guide

One of the greatest strengths of crypto is the potential for self-custody – that is not having to rely on and trust a second party. Exchanges where users can trade crypto are a second party, and they have risk associated with them: they could be hacked, and with millions of dollars in assets, they’re big targets. Part of your journey in receiving my art, is learning how to manage Ethereum assets in your own wallet. (This is by necessity as well because most exchanges do not support receiving/holding/sending NFT assets with them.)

I suggest that you use at least 2 accounts, a ‘hot’ account that is lower security, and a ‘cold’ account that is higher security. The hot account will be created by software wallet in a browser-based application called Metamask, and the cold account will be created by a hardware wallet device. Each of these wallets will have its own seed-phrase, but you really will only need to store the one associated with your hardware wallet (that you’ll use to manage your cold account).

The following sections will walk you through the steps to implement this robust account security strategy.

Step 1: Software Wallet Setup

In your browser of choice, make sure it’s updated, then visit https://metamask.io/. There, you should find a link to install the Metamask web wallet extension. Please do that. Part of the installation process will ask you to create or import a seed phrase. This seed phrase will create only your ‘hot’ accounts – and in these accounts you won’t store things of significant value. Use a piece of scrap paper to jot down the seed-phrase under the heading ‘hot’. Do not type this text anywhere!

Now, as you’re done with the process of reentering the seed phrase, I suggest you to tear up / erase / throw away the paper you wrote the seed phrase on! (You don’t have to do this, but please consider it). You see, that seed phrase is the one associated with your hot accounts – those that should not store any significant value. So by destroying your ability to recover the account in case you lose or damage your device or if there’s a software error, you will automatically be inclined to not store anything of value in the account(s) made by the seed phrase.

This ‘risk’ nicely matches the inherent risk of the software wallet itself (viruses, malware, etc can compromise a software wallet). Once you have a software wallet set up, it will automatically make an account from the seed phrase, and you can call this account ‘hot’. Any accounts created through the software wallet will be ‘hot’ accounts. You can copy the address to the account and store it someplace convenient. This is a public address for receiving assets, and you can safely share this with others.

To help mitigate the risks of software wallets, keep virus and malware scanners up to date, and be careful that you’re not getting tricked into going to a fraudulent website (Links in emails should never be clicked! Many scams are sent by email). Finally, consider installing a transction previewer like Fire (https://www.joinfire.xyz/)

For more info on setting up Metamask wallets, check out the Bankless guide: https://www.bankless.com/guide-to-metamask 
For more info on setting up Rainbow wallets, check out the Bankless guide: https://www.bankless.com/the-bankless-guide-to-rainbow-wallet

Step 2: Hardware Wallet Setup

For more info on setting up Ledger hardware wallets, check out the Bankless guide: https://www.bankless.com/how-to-setup-a-ledger-wallet

Step 3: Hot/Cold Account Strategy
Optional: Using Additional Accounts
Step 4: Viewing Your Collection

For more information on Opensea, check out the bankless guide: https://www.bankless.com/the-bankless-guide-to-opensea

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