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Electrum: universal bitcoin wallet

HEISENBERG

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Electrum is one of the oldest and best known Bitcoin wallets. While not a complete node of the BTC network, Electrum allows users to manage their private keys and access various advanced Bitcoin features such as multi-signature addresses and hardware wallet integration.

Electrum has been around since 2011, and its client is included by default in the privacy-focused Tails operating system. The wallet software uses simplified payment verification (SPV) and a full node server system to verify payments.

Electrum accounts for about 10% of all transactions on the Bitcoin network.

There are now versions of Electrum for Linux, Windows, OCX, Android. You can download it here.

This is a software wallet, i.e. it offers more security than an online wallet and less than a well-made paper or hardware wallet. This is a solid option for new users who want to have control over their private wallet keys after purchasing bitcoins on the exchange and sending them their Electrum wallet. Besides, Electrum has a number of advantages:

Security​

Electrum offers its users a wide variety of different security options. While creating a wallet, you can choose one of the following options: two-factor authentication wallet, standard wallet, multi-signature wallet, and hardware wallet.

Open source software. Anyone can check the code for glitches, bugs, or security breaches. Electrum is written in Python. It is an old and well-known language, so the code can be reviewed by many members of the community.

No user information is saved on the servers. Users control their private keys and therefore their funds. Since the server is open source, any user can run the server. This decentralized model protects users as there is no single point of failure.

Electrum uses the seed phrase as a fallback. This will protect you if you lose your private key or your device where Electrum is installed. The backup phrase is a unique set of 12 words. Storing them in a safe place, you will ensure yourself a complete restoration of access to your wallet.

Two-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security. For every transaction made to your Electrum wallet, you must provide a two-factor authentication code from the other device in order for this payment to be sent. Electrum can also be used as a multi-signature wallet. This greatly increases the security of the wallet.

Hardware devices are another option when it comes to enhanced security. Devices from Ledger and TREZOR, two of the most prominent brands in the hardware wallet industry, are Electrum compatible. Coinkite's Coldcard hardware wallets also work with Electrum.

Work speed​

Electrum uses a simplified payment verification SPV, which is a way for lightweight Bitcoin clients to check if a particular transaction has been included in a block, without downloading the entire block. This function is needed to limit the amount of resources required by the user's computer to run the wallet software.

Full control over sending transactions​

Electrum calculates the amount of commission that will be included in the transaction. It has a useful slider that allows users to choose how urgent the transaction is. They can choose how long it takes to process on the network.

In the event that your transaction was sent with a low commission and because of this was stuck in the network for a long time without confirmation, Electrum allows you to increase the commission or cancel the transaction.

Setting up a new wallet (by the example of Windows)​

1. Visit electrum.org and download the version for your operating system.
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Choose Windows Installer, which is used to complete the full installation on your system. There is also a portable version (Portable), which works without installation, from any media.

2. Run the setup file and follow the instructions on the screen as for any other installation process.
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After installation, start Electrum.

3. Next, you can select the method of connecting to the server. In most cases, the "Auto Connect" option will work.

4. Then the installation wizard will offer to create a wallet, you can give it any name or leave default_wallet. After that, you should select the type of wallet to create:

Standard wallet​

The easiest option. You can create a new wallet (create a new seed phrase), restore the wallet using the existing seed phrase or previously imported keys. When using only the public key, the wallet will be available only for viewing, when using the private key, transfers will be available. You can also use a dongle, in which case the installation wizard will search for the appropriate device. Trezor, Ledger, KeepKey, Bitbox, Archos Safe-T, Coldcard are supported.

Two-factor authentication wallet​

2FA is provided by the TrustedCoin service, where one of three keys is stored and the service signs your transactions. You will need a separate device with Google Authenticator. During the installation process, you will need to set a wallet password, accept the terms of service and provide a valid email address. As a result, you will also receive a seed phrase for wallet recovery, as well as a QR code and an alphanumeric recovery code for adding an account to Google Authenticator (any other 2-factor authentication program may be also utilized).

Multi-signature wallet​


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When creating such a wallet, you must select the number of signatures required to unblock funds. You can select up to 15 participants and / or signatures. Each participant provides his seed-phrase, or his public key, or signs with a hardware wallet. To be able to restore a multisig wallet, you must include each member's public key with each backup.

Import bitcoin addresses or private keys​

This option is necessary to restore wallets using existing private key files or simply addresses.

Using a wallet​

Receiving funds​

Open the “Receive” tab and click the “New Address” button. A new address will appear that you can copy and send to the sender of the funds. Also, the address will be available in the form of a QR code for quick payment from mobile devices. If you specify the requested amount when creating the address, then it will be included in the QR code and the sender will not have to enter it. The expiration date of the address matters while sending signed requests or Lightning-requests, in other cases it is not necessary to set it - the address will always be part of the wallet and can be used for indefinite period of time. Though, this will have not the best effect on your privacy.
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Sending funds​

On the "Sending" tab, insert the recipient's address, specify the amount and click the "Pay" button. Always double-check the address to make sure it is correct. You can do this, for example, by checking the first and last 3 characters of the address. Next, you will be asked to indicate the size of the transaction fee - the higher it is, the earlier the transaction will be included in the general blockchain transaction queue. The number of current transaction confirmations can be tracked on the “History” tab.

Useful settings​

In the top menu "Tools" - "Preferences" you can set some general parameters that will affect all addresses and transactions of the Electrum wallet. On the "General" tab, the default currency is mBTC, for some it may be more convenient, in fact it is one thousandth part of BTC, i.e. 1BTC = 1000mBTC. Bits (1mBTC = 1000bits) and satoshi (1bits = 100sat) can also be selected. On the "Transactions" tab, the option to change the commission can be set, this can be useful for speeding up transaction confirmations. On the “Currency” tab, select the preferred fiat currency and the source by which the current exchange rate of this currency to bitcoin will be determined. This will allow you to see the current rate at the bottom of the main window of the program, as well as when sending transactions, the amount and size of the commission will be automatically converted into the selected fiat currency.

Network settings​

Go to the "Tools" - "Network" in top menu. Here you can select specific servers that you trust, or leave an automatic selection. In addition, on the "Proxy" tab, you can enable Electrum to work through Tor (while it must be running on the system) or any other proxy server.

Some conclusions​

After reviewing the main features of Electrum, it becomes clear that the wallet is replete with reliable security features. By using two-factor authentication or a multi-signature address, users will provide their wallet with an additional layer of protection. These features provide an overall Electrum sealed security system. With one exception that was recently fixed. More details are provided here, but in short, Electrum had a vulnerability that allowed hackers to steal bitcoins through infected sites. This is the only vulnerability Electrum has encountered to date and it has been fixed in later versions. If you are using Electrum, be sure to update your software as it does not support automatic updates.

Electrum is included in the Tails and Whonix distribution packages, where it works through Tor, but it should be understood that using Electrum through Tor does not make your Bitcoin activity anonymous. Tracking transactions directly in the blockchain is still easy due to the lack of mixing provisions in Electrum.
 
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