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I'm new to bitcoin and want to help the network by running a full node. I plan to download bitcoin core from the bitcoin.org website, and run it on a spare laptop, by my concern is how do I protect my machine from attack? As I understand it, my IP address will be visible to see. Do I install specific security software or are there other practical steps for me to take? I would appreciate it if answers can be made in simple, and if possible not overtly technical terms as I'm new to all of this. Many thanks.

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How do I protect my machine from attack?

The most important thing is to download Bitcoin Core from the correct destination. You can download it from bitcoincore.org or the source code can be found on the Bitcoin Core GitHub repo. If you download it from a malicious party's destination you could have serious problems. Luke Dashjr has a blog post on the extra precautions you could follow to make sure you are installing the correct software but this may be a challenge for you if you aren't technical.

Do I install specific security software?

No there is no specific security software to install. Depending on your operating system some may recommend an antivirus software but that is general security hygiene not specific to Bitcoin.

As I understand it, my IP address will be visible to see.

Yes your IP address will be visible to peers that you connect to unless you use Tor. (Tor is recommended if privacy is especially important to you.) However, if you choose to use a clearnet node and you don't want your IP address to show up on sites like bitnodes.io you can run a non-listening node by disabling listening. You do this by configuring with the -listen=0 flag or putting listen=0 in your config file. This way you can't be contacted by nodes you aren't directly connected to. The downside to this is that you aren't helping the network as much and you will typically have fewer connections.

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Adding to Michael Folkson's answer:

How do I protect my machine from attack?

Permissions, Firewall, Strong passwords, Backup, Encryption, Updates etc.

https://medium.com/@meeDamian/bitcoin-full-node-on-rbp3-revised-88bb7c8ef1d1

https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/configuration/security.md

https://github.com/rootzoll/raspiblitz

my IP address will be visible to see

If you want to use Tor for connecting to Bitcoin p2p network and also have one onion service to listen, you can follow the below instructions to setup onion/hidden service:

How to run Bitcoin Core as onion service on Windows, Ubuntu and Android?

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If you are using Ubuntu or Debian (or any derivative) then I highly recommend the bitcoin standup scripts from blockchain commons. If you can't read shell scripts then maybe its not the best option but you can certainly learn from it and type the commands one-by-one.

I use them and they work pretty well.

You can google "github blockchaincommons bitcoin standup" and you'll find a github repository where you can download a bash script that bootstraps a bitcoin core behind tor.

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