Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are emerging from the dark side of the web. These currencies have multiplied in number and increased tremendously in value despite their volatility.
However, sad experience has taught storing crypto safely in online exchanges is risky at best. In the infamous case of Mt. Gox, almost $500 million worth of bitcoin was hacked. Some of it seems to have emerged in the hands of potential thieves, but there’s still mystery surrounding the incident. Many other hacks of exchanges have occurred since Mt. Gox, leading to a scramble to find more secure ways to manage cryptocurrency.
The super-hacks have shined a spotlight on the issue of custody. As Philip Martin of Coinbase, a large cryptocurrency exchange, stated in a recent Wired Magazine interview,
“Cryptocurrencies have a threat model that’s fundamentally different from what’s come before. We’re taking the lessons from the past about physical security and blending them with well-structured cryptography.”
Crypto investors are understanding that a diversified approach to storage is wise. They are turning to cold storage (offline storage) for at least a percentage of their coin as a way of managing their risks of loss.
Many are finding that the simplest way to avoid the threat of losing digital coin to a hacker is to move it to an offline storage device, called a “cold wallet”. At the same time, the 128-bit encryption codes that permit access to the currency (especially the private key) have to be securely stored where they can be retrieved.
The moment digital files or keys are transferred to a physical medium, whether it’s a device or plain paper (which may be a legitimate way to store an encryption key), custody is the crucial issue. Many of the same risks exist for offline cryptocurrency as apply to other easily transported high-value items like gems.
The encryption keys add a layer of complexity. There are two high-value items, the currency and the key that accesses it, that must be transported and stored separately in a way that they can be rejoined when the legitimate owner wants access.
Our latest white paper plots a path to security in the storage and transportation of cryptocurrency. Carefully managing the risks involved with the activity is necessary to make cryptocurrency insurable. Get your copy of Custodial Crypto Transportation and Storage: Understanding the Risks.