Blockchain technology provides incredible security and transparency to users. As it's extremely hard to change the data once inside the system. Naturally one would think users would be safer in this new crypto world starting off. Although that isn't true. It's a common misconception, because many people are still not educated about the space and can fall into the trap of trusting the social engineers. Phishing attacks already take in an enormous amount of cryptocurrency each day stuffing criminal pockets with liquid currency.
Examples of this include what happened with Mt. Got, Bitgrail, Bitfinex, and many other exchanges who were hacked. I believe this does harm the public trust of the cryptocurrency space. Seasoned bitcoin holders typically understand key custody as they have held the currency in cold storage for many years. Back in the old days bitcoin had no hardware wallets, or solid hardware solutions to securely backup keys. Similar to the way Steem is today. Many of these holders found success with using the tried and tested cold storage method.
Keeping your keys to yourself is just as important as not leaving a stack of hundred-dollar bills in a Walmart parking lot. The reason being if taken by someone they can take complete control of your account. Another problem with crypto adoption comes with people loosing these important private keys. Six months ago a friend who also traded cryptocurrency passed away. All of his coins were encrypted with passwords. Passwords that his family could not remember. This is very unfortunate as he fell victim to a motorcycle accident and his family could not retrieve his investments and it was written as a total loss to his estate.
Keeping your keys secure and having a plan for your early demise is a wise thing to do in the crypto space. Even if you just have a small account value per say. That doesn't mean it could not be worth something someday. So I would always leave directions with those you can really trust so they can take care of your matters in the case of this happening. Education about private keys is one way we can prevent this sad scenario from reoccurring.
What are these private keys? You may ask. A private key is a bit of code that pairs up with a public key to encrypt and decipher cryptographic messages. One feature enabled by Steem's Blockchain is that it doesn't rely on complicated hashes like bitcoin, instead it uses a simplified addressing system to help with memorization. If you are logging into your Steem account for the first time you should get a key that starts with P5. You would want to immediately back this key up offline. You should also back up your username so you do not forget it.
This master-key is the most important key and critical to your success or failure on Steem. If you lose this key or it gets corrupted on accident you will lose your entire Steem account. Not one person, even Steemit could help you then. So it's important to keep multiple backups of your P5 Master Private key, also called the "Steemit.com password".
It's never too late to start learning how you can keep your keys secure while at the same time building a plan in case something happens to you, so your love ones can still gain access to your cryptocurrency funds. A great resource to learn about security and the different features of Steem is the website steemian.info built by Drakos the witness. Printing your keys on a piece of paper, and keeping it in a few locations isn't a bad idea. Or using flash drives to back them up, even engraving your keys into a piece of metal. These are all good options to make your Steem experience the best it can be.