Like conventional financial assets, exchanges play an important role for Bitcoin along with other digital currencies. And just as history has demonstrated in equities and futures markets, crypto exchanges can become a problematic element of the rapidly emerging world of digital assets. On the surface, they appear similar to stock markets, matching buyers with sellers and publishing prices. Yet in several ways they differ vastly, potentially exposing investors to risks they might not fully appreciate. That’s worrying regulators and prompting new exchanges to create ways to offset the dangers.

1. How do cryptocurrency and stock exchanges compare?

They share an important function, as places to trade assets, nevertheless the similarity ends there. Crypto exchanges both hold an investor’s assets and charge brokerage commissions, functions which are normally segregated on the planet of stocks. That assists to help make many exchanges highly lucrative, as do the fact the fees it costs are fatter than traditional bourses’. For instance, Japan’s second-biggest crypto venue, Coincheck Inc., was nearly as profitable in 2017 as Japan Exchange Group, operator of the nation’s biggest stocks and derivatives markets. Another crucial difference: While stock investing arenas are tightly regulated, their digital-asset counterparts up to now have almost no, if any, supervision in many jurisdictions.

2. What risks do these differences pose for investors?

Put simply, the protections observed in the stock-trading world don’t are available for cryptocurrencies. The greatest potential danger for an investor is losing a complete investment, whether through theft by hackers from the exchange holding the assets or from the bourse heading out of economic. Among the most recent cyberthefts, Coincheck had nearly $500 million in digital tokens stolen in January and two South Korean exchanges were breached in June. Half twelve or a lot of largest exchanges have failed since mid-2014, some following a hack (including Mt. Gox, when the world’s No. 1 exchange), others after being turn off through the authorities. CoinMarketCap listed 211 major crypto exchanges at the time of June 20.

That’s one of many stranger aspects of these heists. Because transactions for Bitcoin and so on are public, it’s easy to see where the coins are — even though they’re stolen. However, the thief could make an effort to shake off surveillance by going through services like ShapeShift, that provides about crypto without collecting personal data. Converting coins into a more anonymized currency, like Monero, could conceivably launder them. ShapeShift, which publishes all trades on its platform, said it blocked addresses related to the $500 million hack in January. In addition there are “tumbler” services, created to obscure both identities and transactions, nevertheless the huge total amount of cash stolen presents a challenge.

4. Just how can investors protect themselves?

They can keep digital tokens from exchanges and store them offline, in what’s referred to as cold storage. However, the truth is, they don’t often. It’s impractical for frequent traders, that will spread their holdings across several exchanges, based on Henri Arslanian, financial and regulation technology head at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC in Hong Kong. Some platforms are trying to raise standards: Gemini Trust Co., hired Nasdaq Inc. to monitor for potentially abusive trading in Bitcoin and Ether.

5. What about government oversight?

Authorities all over the world are only slowly getting out of bed to the opportunities and risks of crypto trading, along with their responses have already been mixed. While Japan introduced a licensing system for digital-asset exchanges a year ago, China, after the global center of crypto activity, has become undertaking by far the most strident crackdown. The tiny Mediterranean island state of Malta is compiling a framework to control the sector in a bid to determine itself as being a hub for cryptocurrencies.

6. Are regulators doing something to protect investors?

There has been widespread and repeated warnings to investors, particularly about volatile prices and the chance of losing everything. Many regulators have also warned exchanges to not list tokens that could be considered securities under local law. Bank of England governor Mark Carney said in March the time had come to terminate cryptocurrency “anarchy” and support the industry for the vmywde standards as all of those other financial system. In April, Ny State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote to 13 exchanges seeking information about their internal controls and exactly how they protect customers. The head from the Kraken bourse, Jesse Powell, slammed his efforts and stated that licensing, regulation and market manipulation didn’t matter to most crypto traders.

7. How are exchanges responding?

By fundamentally changing. A whole new generation is emerging, one which hues more closely to blockchain’s original libertarian ideals and this also threatens to overhaul crypto markets. Referred to as decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges, these new venues don’t hold client assets and do nothing more than put buyers and sellers together, leaving the specific transaction towards the investors. The program is actually a peer-to-peer platform and will also be more transparent in operations and fees compared to the current exchange model, in accordance with certainly one of its proponents, Kelvin Wong, head of communications at OAX Foundation, a Hong Kong-based decentralized exchange developer.

8. Do these represent the way forward for crypto trading?

That will depend who you ask. Sam Tabar, strategist at AirSwap, which opened a decentralized venue in April, predicts that traders migrating to the new model will be this year’s big crypto story. But others including Chia Hock Lai, president from the Singapore Fintech Association, say the new kinds of bourse have their own own particular issues, including an inferior user experience and reduce levels of tech support. For David Lee, author of the Handbook of Digital Currency, decentralized venues will in five to a decade become the main avenue for trading cryptocurrencies.