7 Burning Issues for Crypto Cold Storage [Slideshow]

By Lowers & Associates,

crypto cold storage

Demand is on the rise for cold storage vault services for cryptocurrency. As CIT and vault providers work to meet the demand, they are facing risks that are at once similar and very different from those they encounter with their cash services.

As a vault or transport provider, how well do you understand the risks of cold storage?

Our latest slideshow highlights 7 components of a risk assessment for cold storage providers of cryptocurrency. It looks at the following:

  1. The right safe for the job
  2. Control of digital threats
  3. Control of physical threats
  4. Identity verification
  5. Dual controls
  6. Access logs
  7. Procedural integrity

Flip through the slideshow here:


To learn more about custodial crypto transportation and storage, we invite you to download our whitepaper, Custodial Crypto Transportation and Storage: Understanding and Mitigating the Risks.

  Category: Custodial Crypto
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Custodial Crypto Transportation and Storage: Understanding the Risks [Whitepaper]

By Lowers & Associates,


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.

  Category: Custodial Crypto
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When Crypto Keys Go to the Grave: A Case in Risk Management

By Lowers & Associates,


This is one of those things that seems so obvious that you would have prepared for it. If you are the only one who has the encryption keys to a big stash of cryptocurrency, wouldn’t you take precautions to mitigate the possibility of your death?

In what must be one of the worst nightmares of cryptocurrency investors, news sources report that Canadian firm QuadrigaCX exchange CEO, Gerald Cotton, died in India on December 9, 2018 of complications of Crohn’s disease. He was reportedly the sole possessor of encryption keys to currency worth somewhere between $135 and $150 million. If these keys cannot be recovered, the company and the investors who trusted in it may simply have lost the digital money.

There have been very large losses from cryptocurrency exchanges before, but they have been due to hacker attacks that succeeded. Coindesk, a large American crypto exchange, reports that 2018 saw by far the largest losses of crypto due to hackers breaking into exchanges. They warned against keeping ‘hot’ wallets (coin storage) on the exchanges because the hackers were winning the technology race at the moment. The article argues that using hardware wallets (offline devices to store currency) “gives you the highest protection level.”

It is not clear in reports on this widely-circulating story whether Cotton kept the currency on hardware devices, or if he was just in sole possession of the encryption keys. Regardless where the digital coin is kept, you must have the keys to access it. The keys themselves must be stored in a secure fashion, with a method for retrieving them. Cotton’s wife claims that she has searched diligently for the keys to no avail—highly skilled coders are seeking ways to regain control of millions of dollars, with no success to date.

There has to be a plan.

Further, hardware keys in themselves are not the final security solution. Once encryption keys and/or currency are transferred to any offline medium, you have created an item that in itself is both valuable and vulnerable. Like jewelry or cash, offline stashes of cryptocurrency or the keys to access it become easily transported, high value assets.

Like jewelry or cash, offline crypto storage raises issues of transportation, hand-offs in the chain of custody, and storage security. All of these steps are exposed to significant risks of loss.

Some may look at the QuadrigaCX episode and conclude that cryptocurrency may be too risky for legitimate investors, and not ready for prime time. In the early years, crypto was often used in dark web transactions for drugs and money laundering, and there is a case to be made that it cannot function in a normal economic environment.

However, a greater certainty is that the crypto dream of creating a purely “free” means of exchange beyond the reach of any government is not without significant problems. Standard fiat currencies exist within structured sets of rules that track and evaluate transactions that provide some security. Money transport and storage businesses operate within these systems using carefully crafted risk management protocols to mitigate known threats.

Crypto may need to develop similar rules and work within fiat systems and/or adopt physical security similar to cash—to get the same level of security. To realize the potential advantages of cryptocurrencies for ordinary economic transactions, there needs to be a much higher level of control.


  Category: Risk Management
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[Slideshow] CIT Carriers: Emerging ITM Program Risks

By Lowers & Associates,

Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) present a win-win for customers and banks alike. These machines offer new levels of automation, allowing banks to efficiently deliver a wide range of banking services. ITMs free up teller lines for higher level services, allowing customers to take care of basic needs on their own. ITMs bring new levels of convenience for customers who are increasingly comfortable with digital banking services.

ITMs also open up new opportunities for CIT carriers who are able to step up to the demands of servicing a more complex machine. That said, the details of ITM servicing cause concern and complexity. Consider the placement of the ITMs. While convenient for customers, their placements often put carriers at increased risk of attack. Not to mention the time it takes to service an ITM, which is significantly longer than a traditional ATM. These longer service windows also add to a carrier’s risk.

Our latest slideshow resource sheds light on emerging risks CIT carriers face as they look to expand their banking relationships to handle ITM servicing.

Flip through the presentation here:

  Category: Cash In Transit
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The Making of a High Reliability Organization [Infographic]

By Lowers & Associates,

The High Reliability Organization (HRO) is an irresistible topic. How can any organization (like an aircraft carrier) or organized system (like American commercial aviation) operate in a totally threat-filled environment without frequent catastrophic failure? How can any organization realistically seek perfect reliability under conditions where the unexpected is routine?

Organization design experts have been working out the answers to these questions over the past 20 years. What has emerged from this research is a growing understanding about how an organization in a complex environment can become a resilient, adaptable HRO.

People working in HROs continuously seek ways to improve processes, and use every failure as an opportunity to install beneficial changes. They do not assume that just because something has worked well in the past that it will always continue to do so. The people and the system they are part of are open to change.

Early research focused on “heroic” organizations like the U.S. commercial aviation system. In 2015, there were about 24,000 commercial flights every day, operating through a network of 476 control towers and 14,000 controllers. Yet there were zero fatalities due to operations in commercial aviation that year.

Vivid outcomes like this helped to highlight how HROs operate to manage the unexpected. These same principles can be used in more ordinary organizations and systems to improve performance. A prime example is how healthcare organizations of different types are working diligently to adopt HRO principles.

This infographic, The Making of a High Reliability Organization, gives a fast summary of the characteristics of an HRO. Managers of every organization should be familiar with HROs to evaluate how they might adopt operational and cultural factors that lead to very high reliability to their own environments.