There are lots of ways to store Ethereum. Our MetaMask review will help you decide if you should use this application to keep your Ether safe.
What is MetaMask?
MetaMask is a free browser extension that allows you to access Ethereum and ERC20 cryptocurrency tokens securely and quickly. It’s available to download on Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera and the Brave Browser.
The MetaMask tagline is that it “brings Ethereum to your browser” with their aim being to make Ethereum as easy to use for as many people as possible.
One of the benefits of the browser extension in terms of security is that you never need to enter your private key on a website, and it automatically identifies phishing and malicious websites to protect you. In addition, MetaMask doesn’t store your private key on a server, it’s all kept in your browser (again helps lower the risk of a malicious individual stealing your private key.)
Point of interest : MyEtherWallet actually recommend MetaMask as one of the secure options to send Ethereum. It’s a well respected application and its popularity is growing quickly in the crypto community. More on this further below.
MetaMask also allows you to interact with Ethereum based decentralised applications (Dapps) from your browser. There are an number of projects with live or test Dapps which can be accessed via MetaMask such as FunFair (where you can gamble using cryptocurrency), ETHLend (allows you to lend and borrow cryptocurrency) and of course CryptoKitties, a popular blockchain based game where you collect and breed digital cats (if that’s up your street.)
Things to consider:
- Very easy to set up and free to download
- Automatically blocks you from visiting websites that are known to steal funds.
- Quick to access from your browser whenever you need to.
MetaMask supports Ethereum and ERC20 tokens; which are tokens built on the Ethereum blockchain. This includes hundreds of tokens such as VeChain, OmiseGO, BAT and more so we’d recommend checking out this page at Etherscan which lists all ERC20 tokens based on their market capitalisation.
How to Use MetaMask Wallet
You can use MetaMask on a number of different browsers, but we’re going to walk through using it on Google Chrome. In all honesty, the process is similar regardless of the browser you select! The best part about MetaMask is that it takes less than 5 minutes to set up.
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Step 1: Download MetaMask from https://metamask.io/. Ensure the site is shown as “Secure” before downloading it onto your device.
Step 2: In this case, we’re downloading MetaMask from the Chrome web store for the Google Chrome browser. Open up the application.
Step 3: You must then select a password which protects your key via encryption. As always, make sure it’s a strong password and you store it safely; preferably offline such as on a piece of paper. Alternatively you can consider using a password manager like LastPass or KeePass (do your own research before using one of these!) You will need to use this password every time you log into the MetaMask browser extension.
Step 4: The next step is to record the 12 words shown, which are your private key. You need this to access your Ethereum. It cannot be recovered if you lose it and acts as the backup in the case you lose your password or your device crashes, is lost or stolen. Note: This should not be shared with anyone!
How to send Ethereum to and from MetaMask
You’re now ready to send Ethereum and ERC20 tokens to and from your MetaMask account.
- Select “Deposit” from your MetaMask account and copy your public key. You can use this to send crypto.
- If you want to send Ethereum from MetaMask to another wallet or exchange, you can either do this from the browser extension or alternatively use MyEtherWallet. Go to https://www.myetherwallet.com/, “Send Ether & Tokens” and select MetaMask from the list of options. This method connects your MetaMask account with MEW (MyEtherWallet).
Buy Ethereum with MetaMask
MetaMask has a feature which allows you to buy Ethereum from Coinbase or Shapeshift directly within the browser application.
MetaMask securely connects to your Coinbase account and lets you process a transaction there and then. However it appears that this comes at the price of a higher fee (roughly 4% for a $400 transaction) so if you’re not in a rush, you’re probably best buying directly on Coinbase.
Is the MetaMask Wallet Safe?
The question that everyone wants to know: Is my Ethereum safe on this application? Here are some things you should consider when deciding if MetaMask is safe.
- MetaMask stores your seed phrase (effectively your backup) encrypted with a user selected password. Therefore if a hacker did gain access to your device, they would also need to know your password unless the MetaMask application was already open. This is more secure than a wallet like Jaxx, which doesn’t encrypt your seed phrase with a user supplied password.
- It’s important to understand that MetaMask is a “hot” wallet; you use it on a computer that is connected to the internet. These are less secure than offline wallets.
- MetaMask is open source. This allows independent developers to review and verify the code. Generally this is welcome as it is beneficial for transparency and can help improve security (if a developer identifies a vulnerability.)
How Secure is it?
From our research, there haven’t been any confirmed reports of successful hacks on MetaMask which have resulted in stolen cryptocurrency. MetaMask uses a security system called DEN which is your password encrypted storage within the application.
Despite this there have been previous security findings related to MetaMask such as:
- An issue where it was reported that MetaMask seed phrases were not restoring a user’s account. This was fixed and the developer was rewarded with a bounty (a perk of the software being open-source.)
The software is continually evolving however and you should keep up to date with developments.
It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t rely entirely on MetaMask’s “website blocking” function. It’s highly unlikely they are able to blacklist all phishing websites so always be cautious when you’re visiting an unknown website – there are lots of “hoax” websites out there with the intent to steal your funds.
We always recommend you use cold storage such as a hardware wallet but MetaMask is a good option to keep smaller amounts of Ether and ERC20 tokens safe.
MetaMask Wallet Security
- Password: Make sure you chose a strong password – your account is only as strong as your password.
- Seed phrase. This is a 12 word phrase and is used to access or restore MetaMask on other devices if necessary. For example, if you lose your computer or you uninstall the browser extension, you’ll need your seed phrase to re-import your MetaMask account and gain access to your crypto. This should not be shared with anyone and keep it stored safely!
- Private key: You can view your private key in MetaMask, but you must re-enter your password before it’s shown.
- MetaMask does not support two factor authentication (2FA) or hardware wallet integration. However this may be implemented in future.
There are no fees to use MetaMask to store your cryptocurrency.
However if you’re sending Ethereum or ERC20 tokens from MetaMask to another wallet you’ll need to pay a Gas fee. Gas is the internal pricing for running a transaction in Ethereum and is required by the Ethereum network is process a transaction. Depending on how busy the network is, you may need to pay a higher fee to get your transaction processed.
It does appear that MetaMask makes money when you buy Ethereum from within the application using the Coinbase or ShapeShift integrations.
There have been a few reports / instances where people have said that their Ether transactions have been pending for greater than 24 hours using MetaMask. If this is the case, you may need to cancel the transaction and select a higher Gas limit to process your transaction. Or wait until the backlog clears on the Ethereum network.
You can check the status of your transaction using https://etherscan.io.
Ultimately many of the speed issues will depend on the Ethereum networks’ ability to process transactions. If there’s a spike in volume on the network, this will generally correspond with longer transaction processing times.
The Mist Wallet is another option to store your Ether and access decentralised applications on the Ethereum blockchain. However it’s less user friendly than MetaMask and you’re required to download it from GitHub. If you’re relatively new to the crypto space, we’d recommend using MetaMask over Mist.
- MetaMask is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Linux and Brave and is one of the easiest ways to store and transfer Ethereum and ERC20 based tokens.
- It’s free, very easy to use and is considered a “hot” wallet since it’s on a device connected to the internet.
- It blocks malicious websites known to steal funds whilst you’re browsing; a very welcome add-on security feature, but not something you should rely on.
- Your MetaMask wallet is encrypted through a password you must enter every time you want to access the browser extension (and in turn your funds.)
- If you lose your wallet, or the device which has the extension download on it, you need your private key. Store your private key (12 words) in a safe place; preferable multiple backups. If you lose this you risk losing your funds.
- You can buy cryptocurrency on Coinbase and Shapeshift exchanges using MetaMask.
- It’s open source. Meaning that other developers can review and code and be rewarded for finding flaws or vulnerabilities (receiving a “bounty”)
Overall we highly recommend using MetaMask to store small amounts of Ethereum and ERC20 based tokens. As always, you should store larger values of crypto using a safe and secure hardware wallet like Trezor or Ledger Nano.