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How I recovered cryptocurrency from a broken laptop (engadget.com)
239 points by 11thEarlOfMar 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments



I'd call myself a developer and a "computer" expert, especially relative to 99% of the people I know in real life. I've also been in the bitcoin game a long time. I run full bitcoin and monero nodes. Absolutely none of this is easy and frankly, at times it can be absolutely terrifying considering the sums of real dollars you may be transferring. To think that the market cap of Bitcoin and Crypto in general is where it is is actually shocking considering how absolutely UNfriendly the entire endeavor is from step 0 to actually buying, selling, transferring coins or buying goods and services.

When using cryptocurrency becomes as easy as pumping gas or sending an email or depositing a check - watch out, because it inevitably will become that simple. It will make the run up we've seen in 2017 seem absolutely darling. I'm certain the usability will come. Personally, I'm waiting for Square Cash to figure it out and then integrate with Twitter.


I don’t know, for buying and selling Coinbase seems to be pretty user friendly. You can sign up for an account, link it to your bank account and start trading in minutes. Not sure how much easier it could get.


True.

But even so, the average Coinbase user's reaction to receiving their first Bitcoin is "Now what do I do with it?"

Both of my parents had this reaction. And the only use they've found so far is to gamble it on altcoins like they have in the past with penny stocks!

So the whole "transferring coins or buying goods and services" part has a looooong way to go.


> And the only use they've found so far is to gamble it on altcoins like they have in the past with penny stocks!

Which is really all cryptocurrencies are good for at the moment. Nobody in their right mind would use anything so volatile to buy/sell goods and services.


I used to tell people this when they ask me how to buy Bitcoin but then one day I helped a friend and no, Coinbase can be really unfriendly sometimes. We tried to verify his account 20 times and even though it sometimes said it was OK it actually wasn't. The page kept bugging out, getting stuck and all kind of nonsense. In the end we had to give up.

Fwiw, this was outside the US.


Same experience here. It tooks me DAYS to have a working coinbase account. Their process was a pains in the *, verification a nightmare.


Please make sure you take your coins off of Coinbase (or any other exchange) as soon as you can. Here's a talk by the venerable Andreas Antonopoulos on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt-zXEsJ61U


tl;dr - Exchanges go bankrupt


Right, I was gonna say that Coinbase is currently the best way to buy and sell coins today. I can say that as I have accounts on a number of exchanges. Still, Coinbase does not let you know that they also operate GDAX.com, where you can "make a market" and buy/sell for no fee. A buy/sell on Coinbase is basically a market order on GDAX.


The problem there is that you can't do instant transactions. You need to transfer cash, wait for that to be received by GDAX, then trade. Unless you keep cash on gdax/coinbase, you will still need to buy coinbase if you are buying an unexpected dip.


Navigate to coinbase.com, scroll to bottom: Products - GDAX. Hardly a secret.


Sigh... "You just had to go the basement bathroom past the sign that says beware of the leopard!" (To misquote Douglas Adams). I had to have a friend tell me that there's seamless transfer between yhr 2 systems, if they really wanted to let you know they would've had this trading capability as no. 4 in their "Getting Started"..


I am betting on Dash Evolution.

(Now I will be probably downvoted to hell as usual because mentioning Dash, but Dash Evolution is absolutely ontopic when it comes to user friendly crypto: That project is the biggest effort to make cryptos user-friendly in the industry.)


Can you give some examples why you feel that way?


Dash has a clear vision to be a payment-focused cryptocurrency, and has important features to achieve this: relatively high transaction throughput (2MB blocks at every 2.5minutes (obviously they have a roadmap to further improve this)), private send, instantsend option. It has an actually working treasury system, and the whole project is pretty well grounded on earth (vs. some extremely specualtive cryptos like IOTA). The evolution project is about using the already existing masternode network to provide features that up to now mostly centralized services provided on top of the blockchain. People will log into their wallet, can reference their freinds by name instead of adresses, they will have contacts ,etc... all in a decentralized system of masternodes. I don't think any of the big cryptocurrencies have such a vertical integration in their system. Also I like the people in the Dash Core team: Ryan Taylor (CEO), Chuck Williams (UX), Evan Duffield (CTO). They have a quite big chance to become a cryptocurrency actually used for payment instead of only as a store of value.


Thanks for the reply. I’ll probably take a look at Dash.


> all in a decentralized system of masternodes.

That's assumed and not proven. There's a lot of dislike for Dash on r/CryptoCurrency for a reason. One of the biggest issues is where its creator, Evan Duffield, instamined/premined a ton of coins "by accident" and didn't start over for a fair launch. In the first two days, he mined 1.9 million coins (10% of the supply).


Refunds and chargebacks without escrow need to also be trustworthy and easy, too.

I believe a Bitcoin debit card would do everything you say... But if someone skims my card at the pump and takes all my bitdimes, I want that to be a resolvable problem. The thing I fear most about mainstreaming Bitcoin is buyer protection.


I use the TenX debit card. You can stock it up with Bitcoin and pay everywhere where VISA is accepted.

Super nice to impress your friends by buying burgers with yesterdays gains :P


But how much was that burger (the next day)?


That doesnt matter as I consumed it and had fun doing so!


Have you never used cash?


Do you carry all your wealth around in cash and hand it to the cashier for them to take their part?


Do you only use a hot wallet for all your coin? Do you keep your savings in your checking account?


I'm not the guy you replied to but:

> Do you only use a hot wallet for all your coin?

No.

> Do you keep your savings in your checking account?

Yes! :)

Moving coins manually between a hot and cold wallet is a hassle and what I would consider a significantly worse user experience than what exists today.


Ok, well if your checking account is breached and funds withdrawn you'll be fighting with the bank to get them back while unable to pay your living expenses. It's pretty risky.

Get a second account, even if it's low / no interest, and put the bulk of your money there. That way if your checking account is emptied the attacker only gets your spending money. Don't spend directly from the second account; move money from the "savings" account into checking regularly (monthly by scheduled task if you can't / don't use internet banking, as required if you do). Will also help with budgeting if you have an extra step in making large sums of money available. Not saying you don't / can't budget, just offering experience!


You say that like it isn't fast becoming an option for the wealthy and technologically adept.


Maybe the price is that high in part because the offer is limited by things such as lost bitcoins and unfriendliness of transaction.


Monero is downright user hostile at this point!


They're all terrible. Here's some terrible from Monero:

  [wallet 432JYE]: help 
  ...
  fee Print information about fee and current transaction backlog
  ...
  set Available options: seed language - set wallet seed language; always-confirm-transfers <1|0> - whether to confirm unsplit txes; print-ring-members <1|0> - whether to print detailed information about ring members during confirmation; store-tx-info <1|0> - whether to store outgoing tx info (destination address, payment ID, tx secret key) for future reference; default-ring-size <n> - set default ring size (default is 5); auto-refresh <1|0> - whether to automatically sync new blocks from the daemon; refresh-type <full|optimize-coinbase|no-coinbase|default> - set wallet refresh behaviour; priority [0|1|2|3|4] - default/unimportant/normal/elevated/priority fee; confirm-missing-payment-id <1|0>; ask-password <1|0>; unit <monero|millinero|micronero|nanonero|piconero> - set default monero (sub-)unit; min-outputs-count [n] - try to keep at least that many outputs of value at least min-outputs-value; min-outputs-value [n] - try to keep at least min-outputs-count outputs of at least that value; merge-destinations <1|0> - whether to merge multiple payments to the same destination address; confirm-backlog <1|0> - whether to warn if there is transaction backlog; refresh-from-block-height [n] - set height before which to ignore blocks
  ...
  [wallet 432JYE]: fee
  Current fee is 0.000222060000 monero per kB
  2 block (4 minutes) backlog at priority 1
  1 block (2 minutes) backlog at priority 2 (current)
  1 block (2 minutes) backlog at priority 3
  No backlog at priority 4
  [wallet 432JYE]: set priority 3
  Wallet password: ***************************************
Me and my grandma: Priority? WTF is priority? Why does "priority" set the fee? It's all so bloody terrible. Friends messaging me to buy some IOTA. Guess what? It's very complicated to buy IOTA.


What wallet are you using?


Someone else might find this tool I wrote useful, it finds BTC wallets by scanning raw block devices:

https://github.com/jakewins/findbtc

I deleted 26BTC a while back when reinstalling a laptop, because they were effectively worthless. A few years later, they weren't anymore, so I wrote this to get them back. As long as the file system isn't encrypted, it scans the raw bytes on the disk to find remnants of wallets. It also unzips compressed files it finds and does the same scanning in there.


How do you build this? I see it's go and I have that installed on my laptop but I'm not familiar with the commands to run to build it and the last 15min or so of googling around have been fruitless.


If you have Go installed as per https://golang.org/doc/install you can build/install this project like this:

> go install github.com/jakewins/findbtc

I'll update the readme!

If that's giving you trouble, I can cross compile it here and upload a binary to github for you if you tell me your OS and processor - although since this is potentially sensitive software, I'd advice building it from source


I've tried your test wallet and got an offset for file location - any hints on how to get the wallet's content, with dd i presume?


Yeah, the tool doesn't help much past this, it'll just tell you where the raw bytes are.

Basically, what is at that offset is (remnants of) a Berkeley DB file; you'll need manually do the forensic work to get the key out of it past that. Alternatively, there are services that will recover locked/corrupted wallet files I think, so you could extract a big blob around that byte offset and find someone that will do the forensic work for you.


Are there good estimates of the amount of bitcoin lost every year due to carelessness? Based on many anecdotes like this, I fear it's pretty large.

Bitcoin was supposed to be slightly inflationary, due to mining. But if a sufficient fraction is lost every year due to hardware failures and forgotten passwords, it will end up being deflationary. Someday (around log(1e6)/log(1+x) years from now, where x is the fraction lost every year), there'll be only 21 bitcoins left in the world, trading either at 0 or a number with 3 or 4 commas.

[edit: fixed in/de-flation mixup]


First there's no practical way btc can be deflationary given the current interest. The currency pool hasn't kept up with the amount of fiat in the markets at all.

Anyway, second part:

https://bitinfocharts.com/top-100-richest-bitcoin-addresses.... is a good list. What you're looking for are wallets with a really early first in and no first out (or not one in a really long time).

#4 is a good one! https://bitinfocharts.com/bitcoin/address/1FeexV6bAHb8ybZjqQ... This wallet was last touched in 2011 and has $1,008,433,581.88 in it (yes, ba-ba-billion) Either this is the most disciplined investor ever or it's a lost file.

This person dropped $1,000 in 2010 on a few btc and it's now worth $245million (https://bitinfocharts.com/bitcoin/address/1PeizMg76Cf96nUQrY...) ... again, that's either super discipline or just a misplaced file.

The untouched wallets are sadly really really common, especially when you get a few pages in ... you see things like this: https://bitinfocharts.com/bitcoin/address/13DyBwhpDw6152q1dr... ... this person put in $8 (100btc), then $21 (400), then $122 (1700) and that was their july, 2010. Now it's $26.3 million.

Nobody ever believed the fantasy talk in 2010 that 1 btc was going to be worth a dollar, yet alone 12,500! Lots of people were really careless.

I'm there somewhere and have millions of dollars of bitcoins in a lost wallet. Weee, how fun!


Seems morbid but my guess is that they died. Would be a shame, since their family should have it, but it makes the most sense to me.

At least that's how I'd like to think of it, otherwise some poor sod is having to think about this every single day.


Not really! After I realized I had lost my wallet, I just went out and bought more bitcoins. So I predict most of these people that lost that wallet in 2011 don't have a zero balance today.


My question is: why isn't someone brute-forcing those lost wallets? I imagine a billion dollars would be worth it.


Because it would theoretically take an insane amount of time? It's cryptographically secure, so unless you have a quantum computer laying around for the factorization.... Might have to wait a little bit for the brute force to complete


Layman question: there is no way to brute force access to these accounts?


Yes, maybe, kind of?

With quantum computing it's expected that the ECDSA public-key cryptography used in bitcoin addresses will be broken. However, the ECDSA public key is only exposed when your first transaction out of the address is signed. If you only use addresses once (recommended practice), an attacker would have to break your private key faster than it takes for your transaction to propagate to the entire network in order to steal your coins. It would take a long time between the first cracking of ECDSA to nearly instantly being able to crack it. For example, the first publicly-disclosed attack on SHA1 took 110 GPU-years.

If the accounts listed by the OP have sent transactions in the past and reused addresses (which was common back in 2010/11), it's possible the private keys can be bruteforced in the future.

If not, we don't know the ECDSA public key for the address. Bruteforcing it gets a LOT harder--but never say never.


No, we don't know where the wallets are located physically. I'm not sure it is possible to brute force a wallet even if we did know where it was.

A lot of people track and watch these wallets to see if anything moves, it would cause a lot of panic if these lost coins started moving.


This would make bitcoin even more deflationary. Inflation is when a currency loses value. Less and less of something would mean it would gain value creating deflation.


What recourse is there for bitcoin provider services that screw up?

Ie, if one day Coinbase says something like, "sorry, we lost the password to one of our internal coin wallets due to technical error, and your 5.1 bitcoins are lost."

I bet there's some clause in their terms that tries to shield them from this, but wonder how enforceable it would be.

Ie, a regular bank presumably couldn't just say, "sorry we lost your $50k deposit due to technical error". They'd be liable.


Well Coinbase isn't a bank and isn't regulated as such, while a bank is... well, a bank. That's the difference. Coinbase is much closer to some bro running a SaaS off AWS than it is any sort of financial institution.


Coinbase's USD wallet is FDIC insured, so it's much closer to a bank in that denomination.


Well banks in the US are FDIC insured.


So are your dollars stored on Coinbase.


One could argue that the universe of avail bitcoins (those with known passwords) will asymptotically approach zero.

Ie, there's a small chance of a user screwing up. And since there's no recourse, always a perpetual small chance of someone losing their bitcoins.

Maybe Poissonian?


It would be a trivial fork to increase the amount that each bitcoin can be subdivided by, so if the currency does inflate a lot, liquidity can still be maintained.


Is there such a thing as a trivial fork in the bitcoin world? You'd have to get buy-in for most of the developers, and most of the users too, or risk splitting into two currencies. Again.


>was supposed to be slightly deflationary >it will end up being inflationary

I think you got your terms mixed up.


Anecdotally, I know of a ex co-worker who CPU mined a few 50BTC blocks in 2010 and then misplaced the hard drive around 2012.

He is not alone in this.


Sorry, but I genuinely want to know how you can misplace a hard drive!

(Sounds like he went to a good party, the night was long and when he finally got back home he realized he didn't have his hard drive on him anymore.)


You seriously can't imagine this or are you just being snarky? Happens to me all the time. Swap out hard drive to upgrade, throw old drive in box with other hardware junk, throw out junk box months later or when moving to new apartment or simply forget which old box you put that old hard drive in or even which old hard drive had those files etc. Even easier with usb hard drives or external drives.


Seriously, I lose stuff occasionally but nothing as bulky and "expensive" as a HDD. I got a box where I put all computer hardware and I think I just "mentally track" items that cost more than say 50$ and that I walk around with, so I just check for them like I check for my keys or mobile when I leave the house.

Now a pen-drive maybe, but that wouldn't be the place to store my wallet anyway.


Back when bitcoin was CPU mineable I had a couple in a wallet. I've lost the key and the wallet id despite being sure I saved them somewhere. I'm sure I'm far from the only one who has done this.

Ah well, 20 grand lost in limbo.


Bitcoin is a ~democracy, and those questions will be answered. Buying bitcoin is a lot like buying a USA backed dollar, it's an investment in the community. Its not an investment in the physical paper bills/bits.


>People .. ridicule cryptocurrencies, dismissing bitcoin as a scam, a Ponzi scheme or a bubble.

>Wealth disparity is at record levels and the ultrarich have cornered the market on every asset class, but with bitcoin, an entirely new economy has sprung into existence. That's the pitch for decentralized cryptocurrencies: They offer hope that there might be another, fairer way of doing things.

The irony here is Bitcoin, like most other cryptocurrencies are structured similar to a pyramid scheme and highly favor existing capital to control the supply and exploiting users who join the network past a certain date where barrier to entry increases.

They tell the story of acquiring this digital asset for a small capital sum, and simply passing it off to someone else for a greater sum. The intention is not utility but psychological exploitation of greater fools.

http://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/86/is-it-possible...

http://www.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-inequality-2014-1

  Best estimates (2014) are that there are 
  about one million holders of 
  Bitcoin; 47 individuals hold about 
  30 percent, another 900 hold a 
  further 20 percent, the next 
  10,000 about 25% and another 
  million about 20%, with 5% being 
  lost. So 1/10th of one percent 
  represent about half the holdings 
  of Bitcoin and 1 percent close to 
  80 percent


Part of the irony around bitcoin is that some of the early users of Bitcoin are from the Occupy Wall Street movement. We all remember hearing them request donations via btc, people giving thousands of btc for them to buy pizzas.

I think (entirely without proof) it's likely that many of these organisers were/are holding large quantities of bitcoins themselves and have become unwitting millionaires.

I haven't heard anybody mention this before, but I'm very curious to know if this bears any grain of truth. If the people who led rallies against the top 1% suddenly find themselves deep inside that 1% tail.


> I think (entirely without proof) it's likely that many of these organisers were/are holding large quantities of bitcoins themselves and have become unwitting millionaires.

I suspect (no proof either) many early bitcoin adopters sold most of their bitcoins long ago. They cashed out when their capital reached a significant amount, long before becoming millionnaire. For instance, I suppose that if today my BC portfolio were worth $5000, I'd sell them (because I certainly would not buy $5000 worth of BC today if I had none).


Maybe, but does it matter? If you made a few million, should you be sad because you missed out on a few more?

The first (few) million are life changing. But the difference between 20 and 100m is flying private and owning a yacht vs flying first and chartering one for the week.


Another way to look at it, especially for someone who got into bitcoin early because of their politics, is that the difference between 20 and 100m is the difference between being able to make enough donations to influence a politician, and buying the New Republic and influencing the conversation (though such plans don't always go so well [1]). At billions, you can think about buying the Washington Post.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2016/01/...


Not really. It wholly fulfills being financially responsible through this basic tenet -- buy low, sell high. Few asset classes can appreciate in value as astronomically as BTC and it would be prudent to overcome sellers' remorse.

Some may regard "going long" as the bedrock of strategic investment and realizing short-term gains is erroneous, but few will put it towards their retirement. There's absolutely nothing wrong with liquidating assets for life purchases (or even vanity projects (within reason)) rather than dutifully drawing down for one's twilight years.


The question is, can you actually cash out thousands of bitcoins these days? Would any exchange support that and then would you be able to get your money into your actual bank account.

Then comes tax.


You still have to pay your taxes but cashing out a few thousand BTC on one of the large exchanges can be easily done. 24 hour volume at bitfinex is $781MM so you would have to dump a lot of coin to move the needle. A multi-thousand coin sell all at once can cause a brief flash crash though. If you have tens of thousands of coins you go to the OTC market.


I mentioned this before, but one of my former colleagues quit to trade BTC and claimed he could account on some days for 10% of exchange volume.

No idea which exchange.

But his trading activity as far as I understand were on-average neutral (not net long or short). Though I think he also kept a bunch himself too.

So volume alone does not imply the exchange could absorb a large one-sided addition of sell orders without significant move in spot.

Also it's unclear if any of this volume is 'churning', by those with significant quantities of BTC happy to pay transaction fees to create a sense of false liquidity.


Definitely. I did see someone dump 1000 BTC on finex the other day though, and while it did cause a ~$1000 dip they were bought up in a few minutes. Like you say though, there's no way of knowing if the buyers were third parties or the seller rigging the order book (although I don't know how one could have much control over a transaction like that without having control of the exchange itself, but exchanges faking volume and manipulating the price is par for the course in bitcoin land).


It's not just selling your bitcoins on an exchange, it's actually getting the cash out of the exchange and into your bank account.

A large volume on an exchange means there's plenty of people trading, but it doesn't mean plenty of money going in or out.

I mean there are limits, so it's not like Satoshi could cash out in one go.


Why sell all? They could’ve sold in stages and thus, still hold some BTC that make them millionaires.


> We all remember [...] people giving thousands of btc for them to buy pizzas.

I've heard a story of one individual on a forum ordering someone two Papa John's online in return for another forum member sending them 10,000 bitcoin (or something like that) but I've never heard of people sending thousands of bitcoins to "occupy wall street" (who, exactly?) so they could buy pizzas. Where do you remember hearing that?


> I've heard a story of one individual on a forum ordering someone two Papa John's online

That was the famous bitcoin pizza[1][2] (worth $120,000,000 as of this writing), and it is believed to be the first real-world purchase using bitcoins.

[1] Original thread: https://bitcointalk.org/?topic=137.0

[2] The pizzas: http://archive.is/a1IRg (archive link so we don't hug laszlo's servers to death.)


> https://bitcointalk.org/?topic=137.0

I'm not one for all that "if you bought $100 of bitcoin in 2013..." stuff, but wow, that first sentence...

Though I guess if he had 10,000 to blow like that, he probably had a lot more, and probably isn't short of a few now. (Hopefully anyway.)

I think I'd rather be someone who paid 10,000 for two pizzas though (which I assume was more or less the going rate in 2010), than being one of the people who didn't or couldn't take him up on the offer - two days later and nobody had done it.


I don't know about Occupy Wall Street specifically. But I do suspect that many of the Bitcoin 1% have cryptoanarchist roots. The smart ones have diversified, of course. Maybe they'll do some good. Whatever that is. It's hard to tell, anymore.


I suspect (entirely without proof) they spend all their BTC on Silkroad.

We're building a great movie script here, one post at a time.


Why in the world was this downvoted?


It's also very ironic if you think that in the bitcoin based economy you have to pay more than half of your groceries cost to the transaction itself. Bitcoin is inferior, it is for speculators, no longer for the idealists I count myself among.

Yesterday I wanted to install bitcoin core... the blockchain is 153 GB and will eat CPU for days to validate everything. It's crazy. If I look at my early transaction history, I transferred mere euros around and they arrived and were confirmed in seconds/minutes. Unthinkable now. We need something else.


> Yesterday I wanted to install bitcoin core... the blockchain is 153 GB and will eat CPU for days to validate everything. It's crazy.

It's not crazy when you realize that you've verified that you own your coins and that the money supply is correct without having to trust anyone. And all you had to do was commit some disk space and CPU cycles.

> Unthinkable now. We need something else.

As soon as that "something else" becomes as popular as Bitcoin, it will suffer the same issues.


> Yesterday I wanted to install bitcoin core

Why did you want to do that? Altruism? Just so that you could truthfully write this comment?

Bitcoin users don't have to do that.


It was my understanding that doing this contributes to the decentralized character of Bitcoin and helps confirm transactions (I may be wrong). If so, this is now nolonger something mortals can do. Yeah, perhaps, call it altruism. I contribute some CPU cycles on my server to balance the power of the network. Or am I misunderstanding? Is it all about the miners?


Bitcoin mining is dominated by ASIC farms. You'd make more of a difference running a node for an ASIC-resistant coin. (Or by saving energy and not mining at all.)


Your source uses poor methodology to calculate inequality, and is really outdated.

The 2014 article you're citing uses this 2013 article [1] as a source. This uses data from bitcoinrichlist.com, which contains balances for all active bitcoin addresses at the time.

This sort of blockchain analysis isn't super useful, especially in 2017, because some extremely-rich people have funds in multiple addresses and some extremely-rich addresses contain funds for multiple people.

The richest bitcoin address in 2017 has 1.8B worth of bitcoin, but it's the cold storage address for hundreds of thousands of bitfinex users [2]. It's possible that many of the other addresses on the richlist are coinbase vault addresses or cold storage addresses for other custodial wallets. The important part is that, with some publicly disclosed exceptions, we don't know if a rich address belongs to a single person or an organization.

Meanwhile, the poorest addresses contain UTXOs worth pennies that cost more in fees to send than they're worth. These addresses have been completely abandoned by their users and have no practical owner.

Even addresses with a spendable balance don't correspond to one user ever since Hierarchical Deterministic address generation has become the standard. HD wallets generate a new address for every incoming transaction for greater privacy [3]. A typical user may have their funds spread over dozens of addresses.

That being said, I'm sure wealth is highly concentrated in the bitcoin ecosystem: it's just very hard to quantify to what degree it is.

Disclaimer: I hold bitcoin and some other cryptocurrencies.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/927-people-own-half-of-the-bi...

[2] https://bitinfocharts.com/bitcoin/address/3D2oetdNuZUqQHPJmc...

[3] https://support.mycelium.com/hc/en-us/articles/207045475-Wha...


forgive my shock but are you saying there is one single private key out there that unlocks 1.8B USD?

edit: nvm you linked it second. that seems insanely risky to put it all in one address, right?


One public key contains 1.8B USD, but take a look at the address again:

3D2oetdNuZUqQHPJmcMDDHYoqkyNVsFk9r

See how it starts with a 3? Most normal bitcoin addresses start with a 1. The 3 means that it's a pay to script hash address, which means that its likely a multisignature address.

Multisig addresses require multiple signatures to send funds. This could be two out of three possible signatures, seven out of seven possible signatures, fifty out of one hundred possible signatures, it all depends how it is configured.

In short though it kind of works like nuclear weapons where you need multiple keys help by different people to authenticate a transaction.


Instead of the speculative market, why hasn't any of the coins been pegged to a currency like USD or Swiss franc so that it can actually be used more as a currency?

I've read a little about Tether, and that some of the others in this category have failed. Is it a difficult space because it needs some sort of regulation / management vs the decentralization that is promised by cryptocurrencies?


Who controls the production of such a system?

Currently tether is presumed to be manipulated by its maintainers.

https://medium.com/@bitfinexed/latest


Well, that's why I was posing the question to you since you seemed more knowledgeable about all this. I've only started to take time to catch up on this since the past weekend. Not to invest/speculate in the currencies but I figured it was time to learn more about the blockchain technology itself.

Re: Tether - I had only came across that they were 'hacked'. Didn't know anything about fraud. Thanks for the link.


Tether prices do not seem to reflect this presumption.


That maybe true of Bitcoin Core today but that isn't the vision expressed in the original Bitcoin. The true spirit of Bitcoin lives on today in Bitcoin Cash.


What?..

All versions of Bitcoin share the exploitative inverse log curve for distribution and work input.

Bitcoin cash further changed the difficulty algorithm to benefit ASIC miners during a very brief window of time. Fees are reduced, and bandwidth has increased but the same design flaws are shared from Satoshi's algorithm.

So you're completely incorrect.


It isn’t about mining it is about empowering everyone to be able to transact without middlemen.


That’s not what it’s about now. Obviously these digital tokens are a great medium for speculative gambling.

Among the many problems of bitcoin as money, is the speculative aspect increases price volatility, which reduces utility as currency.

The bizarre thing to me is that bitcoin is a (less than) zero sum game. Meaning the funds for someone’s new Lambo came from others, who instead of having a new Lambo, or shirt, or food, now have “ownership” rights to a digital token.

I have a hard time believing that non-owners are going to be happy just handing over real wealth to those prescient enough to buy bitcoin.

On the other hand, the mania of speculative bubbles can drive insane valuations, ultimately resulting between transfers of wealth.

In the mortgage backed securities, the losses to the losers were so catastrophic, that they were socialized to a degree, and taxpayers wound up footing part of the bill.

If you think about that, that every loss for someone, is a win for someone else, the winners in the MBS game truly made out like bandits.

This bitcoin mania can run a long time, but the higher the price goes, the less likely it will be adopted for its ostensible purpose.


Which isn't effective at ending hierarchies if the distribution of coins is even more unequal than existing power structures.


The mining algorithms are the source of the supply, the most important element.

There are many other blockchain designs now, so Bitcoin is already obsolete.


bcash is just a cash grab from some no name scammer.


I can identify with the emotions in the article. I spent the better part of the day wrangling with an old version of MultiBit to get some bitcoin out of an old wallet. And I'm currently in process of trying to recover access to an old Coinbase account that I'm pretty sure has a few bitcoin in it.

Part of the problem with all the security around cryptocurrencies is that it can be really hard to keep access and not lose them. So many passwords, two-factor authorizations, Authy tied to phone numbers, etc. I am not using nearly as much security on my bitcoin stuff now. I think the risk of getting hacked is lower than the risk of me losing access.


Exactly. I've made this point before: The least appealing thing about crypto to me is one of the selling points - That I can be my own bank. I don't trust myself nearly enough to be my own bank. I want to pay someone I trust to take care of that for me. I don't want hacking or forgetting a password to be something that in any way affects my holdings.


I’m on 2 weeks waiting for Coinbase to unlock my account, no response yet. My Authy was on an iPhone 7, and when I upgraded to the iPhone X I didn’t think much about it, but “multiple devices” was disabled so I couldn’t retrieve my account anymore.


I actually have no idea how to recover Authy/2FA if my phone is taken away..


Authy keep the seed so you can recover the 2FA token providing you can still log in to your Authy account.

That's why I use Google Authenticator. I don't want the seed kept (or even known) by a third party. I'll keep my own backup far, far away from any device which also can be used to recover account credentials.


If you use Gemini exchange I believe they only support Authy, at least that's what I had to use. Which is a little annoying having to use both Authy and Google Authenticator depending on which exchange I'm using.


Ha, funny, just this Monday I had to recover wallet.dat from a slightly corrupted HDD drive. What I needed is just the private key bytes (32), unfortunately the disk was unreadable. What helped was RAW access to data on disk coupled with this little tool that scans for private key signatures: https://www.makomk.com/gitweb/?p=bitcoin-wallet-recover.git;...

Then of course the bytes had to be converted to addresses to check which one had the money (and if I found it) and then to WIF to import in Electrum. After half a day of stress I did numerous copies now.


Oh man! At least the poor guy got his money back.

UX on cryptocurrency software seems absolutely terrible even today--I've had countless problems trying to get my ethereum wallet working (still hasn't worked!)


Have you tried exodus wallet ? It's UX/UI is really good, I mean for a crypto wallet

>UX on cryptocurrency software seems absolutely terrible even today

I still have nightmares about multibit UX, it was horrible


The cold wallet problem has vexed me. The solutions seem immature given how widespread this need is. For example, nobody seems to have developed a Shamir's secret sharing approach to cold wallets, which seems like a natural fit. Also, there remain these warnings that one must be very careful about how to transfer funds out of a cold wallet (e.g. in one transaction) which seems to defeat the entire purpose of having a cold wallet (which is safety of the funds.)


IMO it should be done like this. You have a hot wallet, probably on your phone that has a half key. You keep a QR code somewhere else with the other half. Combine these two and you have the cold storage private key. Additionally you could have the full private key in a safe or whatever that you never touch.

In this system you can top up your hot wallet by specifying all transaction details and then scanning the QR with the half code to sign the transaction and send it off.

This would roughly as secure as some sort of 2FA method. The attacker needs to have both the phone compromised, and the paper with the half key compromised.


I appreciate everything you just said and agree that this could work well for some people. On the other hand, reading it through the eyes of the 99% of people I know who can barely check their email, everything you said may as well be written in Klingon. It is simply too difficult for most people to understand.


It's not an unsolvable problem with good apps/software though. A key as a sequence of characters is confusing, but depicting an actual key cut in half, that needs to be combined with another, would make sense to people.

As was said elsewhere, a lot of this will come as the space matures.


Cryptography is a necessary lesson that we need to teach in 2017. Lowest common denominator is a hard threshold to design security for.


The attacker only needs to have compromised the device which spends from the wallet file


Only a half key exists in permanent storage on device. The other half paper key is loaded into memory for transaction signing, and then removed from memory the moment the transaction is sent off

You would need both halves to sign a transaction


I agree that you need "both halves" in this scenario to sign the transaction.

At some point during the spend from the wallet, the privkey that matches the wallet pubkey has to touch memory. This privkey can in theory be compromised in a number of ways with malware on the spending system (keylogger, screen caps, process memdump, etc).

I think the safest way to go about this is to generate an entirely new keypair/wallet on an isolated system. Spend from your wallet then transfer the balance to the newly created wallet. This minimizes losses as a result of privkey compromise (unless of course your isolated system isn't so secure)


«nobody seems to have developed a Shamir's secret sharing approach to cold wallets»

This has been developed. Search for multisig wallets, N-of-M, etc


> nobody seems to have developed a Shamir's secret sharing approach to cold wallets

I mean, what is there to develop? Take the wallet's private key, and run it through your favorite implementation. I'm not really sure what a bitcoin specific implementation would do! Just autoload it into your specific bitcoin client for you?


And that's why i never put passwords or other keys on data that I need to keep safe (as in an archive e.g.).

The chances of me messing something up and losing it forever is bigger then the chance of somebody actually steeling it.


I wonder, how many of us here actually understand Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies? I know several of us probably use them, but even amongst the tech-savy, there seem to be very few who actually understand it, and even fewer of those who participate in the programming of it. I understand the descriptions of blockchains and it's advantages, but I've never looked at any code. And I realize that anyone could in theory look at the code and participate, but it's out of the reach of most programmers I think, let alone regular people. So while on the one hand it seems to be a great "power to the people" currency option, it's really still in the hands of a few.


> but it's out of the reach of most programmers

It's actually really not all that difficult. There are lots of details, and understanding it all end to end is definitely a task most people will never do, but the issue is simply one of effort and motivation, not of fundamental difficulty.


The white-paper is about 10 pages long and completely approachable to programmers with some knowledge of hashing functions and public-key cryptography.

The biggest challenge is understanding how all the pieces fit together, the pieces themselves aren't any kind of ground-breaking computer science.


People critical of increasing wealth disparity vouching for bitcoin is pretty ironic and just highly stupid.


Why is that? Simply because of the current distribution? That doesn't matter much, what matters is what the system incentivizes.

Fiat incentivizes bailouts and devaluing poor people's savings by printing (or QE'ing) money into gigantic financial middle-men.


>poor people's savings

I've got some bad news about poverty for you, buddy


Anybody knows a good choice for a long-living bitcoin wallet software nowadays (cold-storage)?

Currently I am considering Electrum but I have no idead if thats a smart choice. I do not require a GUI, but it should be maintained for a while (so a large user base should help).


The wallet doesn't matter, as long as you have a BIP39-compatible seed (which you can generate with many utilities), any software (or hardware) wallet can be used.


As far as I know the best option is still printing a newly created address and private key on archive quality paper and putting it in a bank safe deposit box. If you don't ever spend from that address the key should be safe. Best practice is to use an airgapped computer running a live CD so the key will never have been on a network. It should be easy to find tutorials on paper wallets. It's not user friendly for sure, but if you want to protect a large amount of Bitcoin it's the best option.


Look into the Ledger Nano S. Supports each BTC chain, other cryptos, and is super easy to use IMO. Uses a seed to create the wallet so you can drop that in a safe deposit box and restore if anything ever happens to the hardware wallet.

Edit: this is the hardware version of storing cryptocurrencies.


This is very similar to what I had to go through to recover a few BTC in my old Multibit wallets from 2013 this summer.

I had the same problem of underpaying for the transaction because I had to sweep many small wallets.

There are many old wallets around which contain amounts too small to recover. Let's say you have 100 addresses each containing $1, it is no longer economical to sweep them into a single address.

Originally in 2011-2013 it was considered a good practice to create many different addresses for receiving.


This was a fun read although as others have pointed out, the end conclusions are not supported very well by, and maybe are irrelevant to, the article as a whole.


Weird choices all around for how to solve this problem. The author of the post could have saved himself a lot of trouble by just focusing on the key backup files and moving the keys to a bitcoin client like electrum that doesn't require a full blockchain sync.


I feel like Engadget could use their screen real-estate a bit more effectively ;)

https://imgur.com/a/TwXwA


That's your adblocker blocking the ad but failing to remove the surrounding frame.


Interesting that you point that out. In a sense you're right, but actually that's the default tracking protection built into Firefox now. No adblocker required.

I was actually referring — in jest, in case that wasn't clear — to the fact that the only content above the fold on this ultrawide display is a stretched image of Hong Kong.


Had a similar issue. when I realised that multibit was legacy I though I lost all. I recover priv. keys modifying the source code of multibit. pain in the ass with hemorrhoids


This is a good read. Count me on the same boat, thanks to the shitty Multibit wallet but I am not in a hurry to open the wallet yet. That said:

> Four years ago, I was living in Hong Kong when a fellow journalist named Mike* and I decided to invest in bitcoin. I bought four while Mike went in for 40; I spent about $2,000 while he put in $15,000.

Invest? Really? That is called speculation with the amount of money you can afford to lose. If you were investing you would go all in and track the progress and protect the password.


What is the problem with Multibit? Just recovered a 2013 wallet a few days ago. Got a password on it or something?


It's the issue highlighted in the article.

> Most users only need one wallet, but MultiBit practically demands that you set up multiple. On top of this, it allows you to add multiple passwords to each wallet, even though these aren't required.

So it gets confusing fast. Then:

> I tracked down an old version of the now discontinued software and discovered that there were multiple ways to restore wallets using MultiBit

So you got links for the old version?


Mine didn't have a password (only worth a few $) but yeah that sucks

I was able to just save the wallet (as a .dat I believe) and then inspect it with a text editor. The contents were my private key and the date the wallet was created. I then used my private key and my address to import the wallet into a modern program.


I'm still confused (starting to fill with regret?) about bitcoin. I remember lively discussions with friends circa 2012. None of us bought. We'd be centi-millionaires?

Is HN now full of mega-millionaires, since the community is full of tech-savvy early adopters?

Raise your hand if you made over a million. Raise both hands if you've made over 10 million.


I sold almost all my over 2000 coins back in 2011. No one who has bought big back then has held on all this time, the only new crypto millionaires are those who find old wallets just now.


Ehh, I tell this story often enough when BTC comes up but here it goes:

I mined (on a CPU) 100 BTC solo back when it was first released. They weren't worth even a $1 at that time. Here I am now and I doubt I even still have the hard drive that I mined them on and if I did have it I have formatted it many times over. Those BTC are lost for forever. Whenever I feel a pang of anger/guilt I just remind myself that I would have sold when BTC hit $8 if not even sooner than that and in some ways that would be worse than what really happened.


>I remember lively discussions with friends circa 2012. None of us bought. We'd be centi-millionaires?

Most people talked about it, few did buy. But the feeling when you've bought and lost the ability to recover your wallet is even worse then not having bought some !

I actually did buy some, but lost my wallet, like so many

I know my adress, and the coins are still there, but I can't do anything about it, not idea where my backup wallet.dat is..

I mean, it's pretty tough to keep track of your digital assets for years, while your mind in thinking about work, friends ect..


Thoughts like these are what have really reduced my will to live.

If I had made a simple decision back then there's a good chance I'd never have to waste my life working again. I could have been freed by now, to live a life dedicated to whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.


I'm still holding on to my dogecoin, just in case... /s




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