Bitcoin (BTC for short) has become significantly more mainstream over the course of 2015. While it’s not going to replace regular currency the way some of its most fervent advocates have suggested it should, it has become useful as more than just an investment vehicle. One can say that owners of the digital coin have matured, and understand the risks involved with owning / using Bitcoins.

There are now numerous tools people can use to store Bitcoin on mobile devices, and that currency can be used to purchase goods and services both online and at select retail locations. But for many who have long heard about the shady side of the Bitcoin phenomenon, this increasing utility can be a little bit unsettling.

Bitcoin: Good or Bad?

Over a year ago, tech genius and Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk said that Bitcoin’s primary value would be as a bridge between legal and illegal transactions. Musk believes it would certainly be used for illegal transactions (this is because the currency is NOT regulated by central banks and governments). He also proposed that this might not be an entirely bad thing.

According to Musk, some things perhaps shouldn’t be illegal. In any case, the use of digital currency for such dealings might be more harmless. Musk may well have been referring to petty crime. This year, however, we’ve heard some more alarming conversations about the criminal potential of Bitcoin.

The CryptoCurrency can’t be traced!

Specifically, it’s been suggested that terrorists could use it to fund their acts. This is mainly because the digital currency is easier for them to move and store without being tracked or blocked by anyone. That’s a spooky notion to be sure, and not one that’s going to help the reputation of Bitcoin among those who are considering using it.

Bitcoin, the CryptoCurrency, can't be traced.

Bitcoin, the CryptoCurrency, can’t be traced. Credit Flickr / BTC Keychain

But it can be used for legal purposes

But if you’re among those thinking about investing in the digital currency, it’s important to recognize that there are perfectly stable and legal ways to use it. In fact, the greatest appeal to Bit-coin for a lot of its everyday users is its stability and transparency.

If you look into how exactly the transactions work, you’ll find that when sending or receiving Bitcoin you get access to the underlying “blockchain,” which means you can see all the transactions that have ever taken place (or which will subsequently take place).

Bitcoin can be the currency of the future so don't rule it out.

Bitcoin can be the currency of the future so don’t rule it out. Photo Credit Flickr / Jonathan Waller

This isn’t particularly helpful in looking at other transactions. Yet it is comforting for many to know that their own transactions are automatically recorded and that there’s an exact record to enforce fair play. In other words, if you send or receive any amount of Bitcoin, there can be no doubt that you did so.

Guard your coins well

The only shady activity that Bitcoin users have to be wary of is that of thieves and hackers. More than criminals who may be out there using the currency for their own purposes. It’s been suggested consistently that hackers may target Bitcoin users. This is because theft, unlike official transactions, is difficult to trace or deal with.

Once hacked, Game Over!

Think about it this way: if your money is stolen from a bank, the bank is responsible for helping you to get back your losses. If your Bitcoin account is hacked, there is no bank or regulatory service available to right the wrong. In such case, you’ve simply lost your money.

For this reason, using Bitcoin requires something of a double-edged understanding. It’s important to realize that the common association with criminal activity has little bearing on the currency’s utility for the average user.

However, it’s also vital to recognize that hacking and theft can be quite damaging. Fortunately, there are a number of Bitcoin storage systems and wallets that have gone to great lengths to guarantee security. But it’s up to each individual user to research these systems and figure out the best system for keeping Bitcoin safe.