Ultimate Resource On Crypto Hardware (And Other) Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)
Daimler, the German multinational corporation behind the Mercedes-Benz brand, partnered with European blockchain interface solutions startup Riddle & Code to provide an open car hardware wallet solution, the startup announced in a press release published on July 22. Ultimate Resource On Crypto Hardware (And Other) Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)
‘Turn Automobiles Into Future Market Places’
Per the release, car wallets have a wide variety of use cases, such as car-sharing, autonomous vehicles, real-time exchange of secure traffic data and with smart city environments to reduce congestion and lower insurance premiums. The startup’s CEO Tom Fürstner declared:
“Autonomous cars must behave consistently to be trusted. Cars are already computing devices. A secure identity ensures that the right authorities have approved code executed inside vehicles and the trustworthiness of data exchanged. RIDDLE&CODE secures this with its cryptographic hardware and uses ledgers to turn automobiles into future market places.”
The wallet in question is reportedly built around the startup’s own secure data storage solution Secure Element 2.0, and allegedly provides a secure blockchain-based identity to vehicles. According to the release’s author, merging this kind of identity with a state-issued vehicle identity
(Registration) Would Enable Unique And Secure Ledger Transactions.
Blockchain In The Automotive Industry
A press release published in February also revealed that Mercedes-Benz has developed a platform based on blockchain technology to increase transparency and sustainability in complex supply chains. Furthermore, in January 2017, Mercedes-Benz has acquired digital payments startup PayCash Europa, spurring rumors that the giant is in the process of launching a payment service of its own.
As Cointelegraph Reported Earlier This Month, Self-Proclaimed
electrification, automation and digitalization global giant Siemens has shown an interest in adopting blockchain-based solutions. In particular, Siemens is exploring the use of blockchain in the transportation industry.
Investment App Abra Expands US Offerings With 60 New Cryptos
Abra is expanding its U.S. offerings, adding support for 60 new cryptocurrencies and doubling users’ bank deposit limits.
The crypto wallet and investment app provider announced Tuesday that U.S. customers are now able to deposit, withdraw or trade bitcoin SV, DAI and cosmos, among many other crypto assets. Additionally, customer withdrawal and deposit amounts will rise to $4,000 per day, $8,000 per week and $16,000 per month.
The service expansion also adds deposit and withdrawal capabilities for at least four stablecoins, including tether, TrueUSD, paxos and DAI, according to the firm.
In coming weeks, Abra will open up access to the new assets for users outside the U.S. as well. The additions bring the total number of cryptocurrencies on offer to over 200. Unlike most exchange services, Abra allows users to freely exchange all in-app assets without trading pair limitations.
The new options will not include Qtum (QTUM), bitcoin gold (BTG), EOS or OmiseGo (OMG), a spokesperson told CoinDesk. Abra announced earlier this year that its U.S. customers would not be able to hold those particular cryptocurrencies from Aug. 29, due to “regulatory uncertainty and restrictions” in the country.
At the time, the firm also said that residents of New York state could no longer use bank ACH or wire transfers, or American Express cards for deposits and withdrawals after the same date. Other U.S. users can currently fund accounts with AmEx, Visa and Mastercard, as well as bank and wire transfers, and crypto.
Ngrave Announces ‘Military-Grade’ Hardware Crypto Wallet
Ngrave has launched what it claims is the first cryptocurrency wallet boasting EAL7-certification — one of the highest security gradings in the world.
Digital asset security firm Ngrave announced sales for its flagship product, the fully offline hardware wallet Ngrave Zero, will launch next month.
The devices will be made available for purchase on Indiegogo from May 26 and are slated for shipping in October.
Ngrave Claims The First EAL7-Certified Crypto Wallet
Ngrave’s co-founder and chief executive Ruben Merre told Cointelegraph that its product introduces “a number of innovations compared to existing solutions,” stating:
“The Ngrave Zero is 100% offline, and features extreme tamper-proofing. It’s the only blockchain wallet with EAL7 security certification, which is the highest security certification in the world.”
The Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) is an international standard for security grading that was introduced in 1999. EAL7 is the second-highest level of fifteen gradings, only trailing behind EAL7+.
“It never needs to connect to another device or over 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, or any other network connection; not even for key generation, syncing accounts or transactions.”
Zero will use wall charging and QR codes to remove the need for any connections to the device — allowing it to remain ‘air-gapped’ at all times. Merre stated that the wallet also “features multi-layered, military-grade anti-tampering.” The unit is operated using a four-inch touchscreen.
The company has partnered with R&D firm Imec for nanoelectronics and chip manufacturing, and Cosic — a firm known for hacking Tesla vehicles on multiple occasions — for its expertise in apple industrial cryptography.
The firm has received funding from the European Commission, the Flemish government, and the Web3 Foundation, in addition to private investors.
Zero Was Developed Over 20 Months
Merre states that Zero’s development was motivated by the experiences of Ngrave’s co-founding team with poor crypto security, including Ngrave’ CTO Xavier Hendrickx’s loss of 44,000 Ether (ETH) in the 2017 Parity hack:
“Ngrave’s three co-founders asked ourselves if there was an existing solution that we would really and completely entrust keeping our crypto for us. We couldn’t find any solution in the market, so we decided to build it ourselves.”
Ngrave began developing Zero in April 2018. The team built a functional prototype on a raspberry pi and pitched their vision to Imec. “That was the beginning of our collaboration with many world-class teams to build the Ngrave ZERO from scratch,” stated Merr, “It took us a bit over 20 months to fully develop it.”
Ngrave Seeks To Replace Paper Wallets
Ngrave will also launch Graphene, which the company describes as “the first recoverable backup in the industry.”
Graphene comprises “a cryptographic puzzle consisting of two durable stainless steel plates and fully resistant to shocks, rain, fire, and other damage,” and is intended to replace “antiquated” paper wallets.
Merre asserts that Zero “notices when it is under attack and will, in that event, wipe all keys.”
Ngrave will also roll out a mobile app that syncs the accounts from a user’s devices for management, communicating with the hardware wallets using QR codes to maintain the air-gap.
Sales To Launch On Indiegogo
When asked why the firm has chosen to launch via Indiegogo, Merre emphasized the platform’s “huge user base” and “considerable traffic.” Merre added:
“[Indiegogo] helps us in identifying demand that we might otherwise overlook. For example, if the Philippines are a region that is very interested in what we have to offer, we will likely notice this on the platform.”
Ngrave Releases More Details of ‘World’s Most Secure Hardware Wallet’
With less than a week until its launch, Ngrave has unveiled more details of its EAL7-certified hardware wallet, the Zero.
Digital asset security firm Ngrave has released more details of its fully offline hardware wallet, the Zero. As previously reported, the Zero claims to be the first hardware wallet to receive EAL7 certification — one of the highest security gradings in the world.
The Evaluation Assessment Level is graded from EAL1 to EAL7, with the latter representing the fullest battery of testing possible, including design documentation and analysis, functional, and penetration testing.
In The Belly Of The Beast
To achieve such certification, Zero integrates the ProvenCore Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) from Prove & Run. Prove & Run co-owner Christophe Pagezy explained:
“ProvenCore is the first TEE to be formally proven down to the generated code. The proof also covers all of the essential parts of the TEE. ProvenCore provides a distinctively higher security level and a lower cost of security.”
The software is paired with a new, highly secure and tamper-proof microprocessor unit from ST Electronics. The Zero also features a built-in secure element that is wrapped in a tamper-proof sealed metal casing, which also shields against incoming and outgoing frequencies.
A Fresh Approach To Security
In contrast to many hard wallets, the Zero does not rely on one “master seed” that ships with the device, but incorporates elements of biometric data such as fingerprints and even environmental randomness from light levels.
The Zero eschews USB or Bluetooth connections to remain fully air-gapped and remove a potential point of failure.
Instead, communication between the device and its associated mobile phone app occurs solely through the exchange of QR codes, which contain no data about the user’s private keys.
Ngrave CEO Ruben Merre explained why potential customers should seriously consider the wallet:
“Our technology’s firmware and hardware meets the security industry’s most stringent specifications possible. This lets us assure NGRAVE wallet customers they’ll own the world’s most secure crypto cold storage wallet, as independently verified by the world’s best information technology and security standard.”
As Cointelegraph reported, Ngrave recently took on Jean-Jaques Quisquater as an advisor. Quisquater is a pioneering cryptographer and was quoted by Satoshi Nakamoto in the original Bitcoin whitepaper.
NGRAVE Hard Wallet Hits 450% of Crowdfunding Goal Within Two Days
A hardware wallet’s IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign reached 450% of its target funding amount within two days of launch.
The NGRAVE ZERO, claimed to be the world’s most secure hardware wallet, launched its crowdfunding campaign for €25,000 ($27,850) on May 26. In the first two days it smashed this total four times over, and is now well on its way to number five.
The campaign, which was launched through the IndieGogo crowdfunding platform, is set to run for another 28 days. The campaign offers a number of perks for backers who donate above certain amounts. These range from a single ZERO wallet, through bundles including the Graphene accessory, to multiple wallet bundles and even every future product NGRAVE launches for those wishing to donate €2,500 ($2,785) or more.
Crypto Crowdfunders Support Tech Without Reward
These perks generally represent a substantial savings compared with the suggested retail price. For example, a single NGRAVE ZERO is offered to those donating €228 ($254), and the retail price is listed as €398 ($443); a savings of 42%.
Interestingly, only 33 of the 430+ backers at time of writing had opted for a perk, representing €11,760 ($13,000) or around 10% of the total raised. This means that 400 people have chosen to donate €106,500 ($118,600) without receiving anything in return.
It must be noted that some of those choosing a perk may also have over-donated for their reward tier. Otherwise the average donation for those choosing no perk was enough to bag them a ZERO wallet on release.
Security Rating Is In The Details
As Cointelegraph reported, the NGRAVE ZERO is the first cryptocurrency hardware wallet to receive the top EAL7 security rating.
In contrast to other cold wallets, which connect to their mobile phone or desktop apps via USB or Bluetooth, the ZERO communicates purely through QR codes. The benefit of this is that this method does not reveal any information about the wallet’s private key.
The Graphene accessory is billed as “the coldest backup available,” and comprises a cryptographic puzzle made of two everything-proof stainless steel plates. Together these plates allow you to store and retrieve your private key, although individually they reveal no information to an attacker.
NGRAVE also recently brought on board renowned (and Satoshi Nakamoto-cited) cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater in an advisory role. He described the ZERO as:
“… the most advanced solution, really exceeding the state-of-the-art as publicly known today.”
Ngrave Launches Physical Encrypted Private Key Backup
The crypto security firm has launched officially its new key backup for crypto hardware wallets, Ngrave Graphene.
Digital asset security firm Ngrave announced the launch of a recoverable, encrypted private key backup engraved on a steel plate for cryptocurrency hardware wallets.
According to the announcement on June 10, Ngrave Graphene is now available to the public after raising more than $159,000 from a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
Ngrave Graphene has a “cryptographic puzzle” design focused on resisting electric shock, rain, fire, heat up to 1,660 degrees Celsius (3,020º F).
The puzzle consists of two plates that contain the owner’s secret key with values on the plate arranged differently for each customer. Both plates are required to recover the key.
Ruben Merre, co-founder and CEO of Ngrave, told Cointelegraph that Graphene removes the “remaining pitfalls of status quo” backup solutions:
“For one, it removes the durability issue of paper wallets or even of electronic backups that can degrade or stop functioning over time. The Graphene is a durable solution made out of stainless steel, so it can withstand a house fire and other extreme circumstances. Also, it removes the ‘single-point-of-failure’ issue of existing metal wallets.”
Major Features Of The Crypto Private Key Backup
Merre stated that it all started with a question the company asked itself and whose answer is for the entire industry: “Which solution would we fully entrust with our very first, until our very last Bitcoin?”
“The Ngrave Zero is a physically tamper-proof hardware wallet with no online attack vectors. It features top security certification for firmware updates. We also realized that, for the device to be fully secure, we needed to include usability as a layer of security. If you can make mistakes when managing your crypto on your secure hardware wallet, you might even be able to lose them by doing something wrong. So, we made the device as intuitive and foolproof as possible.”
The crypto security firm will soon launch the ability for custodians designated by the keys’ owner to recover those keys, even after that owner has died.
Partnerships With Chip Manufacturing Hubs And Research Groups
Ngrave Graphene uses cryptographic protocols like EAL7 and partnered with Imec, a research and development hub for nanoelectronics and chip manufacturing, and COSIC, a research group for applied industrial cryptography, to develop its security features.
Developer Successfully Hacks Bitcoin Wallet To Win A Contest
A Bitcoin developer managed to crack a BTC wallet as part of a contest launched through Twitter.
Bitcoin and Lightning Network project developer, John Cantrell, explained how he was able to successfully hack a BTC address by checking around a trillion seed combinations over the course of 30 hours. The feat was accomplished as part of a contest launched on Twitter by Alistair Milne — the CIO of the Atlanta Digital Currency Fund.
Milne published hints to a 12-word Bitcoin wallet seed over the course of several days. Cantrell succeeded in brute forcing the mnemonic with only 8 out of the 12 words, ultimately claiming the 1 BTC prize contained inside.
Developer Rented Several Graphics Cards
Cantrell decided to rent several graphics cards through GPU marketplaces and Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service after realizing that his Macbook could only check 1,250 mnemonic combinations per second using his self-written CPU seed solver.
The Developer Explained:
“I was worried about other people doing the same and is why I included a .01 BTC miner fee. I didn’t think even this would be enough and thought there could be a ‘race to zero’ where people continually increased the fee trying to get the miners to include their transaction in the next block.”
Developer Who Successfully Hacked Bitcoin Wallet Ensures Bitcoin Is Still Safe
John Cantrell ensures people that Bitcoin is still safe despite the fact he successfully hacked a Bitcoin wallet.
John Cantrell, Bitcoin and Lightning Network project developer, recently revealed he had successfully hacked a Bitcoin address. His article, however, received a number of responses with many concluding Bitcoin isn’t secure. Cantrell felt people missed the point of the exercise so, in a tweet thread on June 19, explained and ensured people that despite hacking a wallet, Bitcoin is still safe.
Takes Forever To Crack The Wallet
According to Cantrell, bitcoins stored in a wallet generated from a 12-word mnemonic is secure. The only reason why he was able to hack the Bitcoin wallet was because the wallet’s owner publicly exposed eight words from his 12-word mnemonic seed. He explained:
“It would take the same system that brute forced the last 4 words of his mnemonic 837 quintillion millennium to brute force all possible 12 word mnemonics […] if you know as few as 5 words. To brute force all 12 words (just to break even on your $100B investment, assuming you can actually liquidate all the BTC) still takes 422 TRILLION YEARS.”
The only way Bitcoin is not secure is when seed words are revealed. “Your bitcoin is safe. 2^128 is a REALLY big number. Just don’t let anyone near your seed words,” he concluded.
Contactless NFC Hardware Wallet Authorizes Crypto Transactions With A Tap
A new cryptocurrency hardware wallet stores private keys securely and fully isolated, while NFC technology enables authorization of transactions through a mobile device.
Keycard is a new credit-card sized hardware wallet featuring near-field communication (NFC) to authorize cryptocurrency transactions. At launch, it features integration with combined private messenger/wallet/DeFi browser, Status App, although further integrations are planned.
The Keycard team has also released an open application programming interface (API) and software development kits (SDK) for Android, iOS and Go, so that developers can build Keycard functionality into any app requiring authorization or other user authentication.
Secure Storage And Communication Of Private Keys
Security is key. In fact, when it comes to cryptocurrency security, it is literally all down to the private key used to access your account. One of the most secure options for storing private keys is using a hardware wallet, and there are certainly an increasing number to choose from.
However, the method for sharing keys and/or authorizing transactions between the hardware wallet and mobile or desktop front-end differs greatly between devices. From early USB connected wallets, through wireless versions featuring Bluetooth, and even the recently announced NGRAVE which communicates only through visual QR codes.
The Keycard uses NFC to allow transaction authorization by simply tapping the credit-card sized wallet against your mobile device. The keys meanwhile, remain safely stored on the device itself.
What’s The Status?
The Keycard is produced by the Status Network, who also develop the Status App which it integrates with at launch. The Status App combines private messaging functionality, an Ethereum wallet supporting ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens, and a decentralized Web3 browser.
However, the launch of the API and SDKs allow the technology to be readily implemented in a host of wallets and other applications. Whether it is to store private keys and authorize transactions, or as part of a two-factor authentication system.
Keycard project manager Guy-Louis Grau believes that the use of such technology should become the industry standard:
“As a project with an open source API, we believe the Keycard model will be an industry standard for all sorts of products that expect normal people to interact directly with their cryptocurrency. Tapping a Keycard against your phone as an added layer of authorization and ownership of your private keys should be the norm anytime someone wants to login, send money, store value and more.”
Another benefit over the ever more complex technologies employed by other wallet manufacturers to secure private keys is the price, as an NFC-enabled Keycard costs just $32.
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NGRAVE Raises Over $430K From Hardware Wallet Crowdfunding Campaign
Cointelegraph speaks with NGRAVE’s CEO following its successful crowdfunding campaign.
The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the NGRAVE ZERO has ended, raising over €385,000 ($430,000) through pre-orders via various reward tiers.
More than 1,200 backers from around the world made the campaign the most successful ever for a hardware wallet, with the total funds raised being eight times the amount of the next best.
Cointelegraph Spoke To NGRAVE Co-Founder And CEO Ruben Merre About The Success Of The Crowdfunding Campaign:
Cointelegraph: The Indiegogo campaign raised over 1,500% of its initial €25,000 goal, during what can only be described as a challenging period for the global economy. Did you ever imagine such a response was possible?
Ruben Merre: Covid not only brought uncertainty to buyers, but also for example pushed all high-converting offline events to cancellation. From the outset, we faced a big challenge. But, we came well prepared and knew where to shoot. Our own big goal set forth was to reach €250,000 with around 1000 backers. But we even broke our own “ultimate” goal of €300,000.
CT: You have beaten the previous best hardware wallet campaign by a factor of 8. What do you think attracted backers to this project in such droves?
RM: First of all, we’ve gone all out on building that one solution that we would fully trust with our first till our last cryptocurrency. We have built the most secure hardware wallet [and] obsessed about the customer- and brand-experience. Combine such a great product with two years of travel around the world to build our network and understand the customer’s needs allowed us to think deep about our brand and what we want to bring to the blockchain space.
CT: Can you give us any initial insight into regions where the ZERO has been especially popular?
RM: Well, we are a Belgium-based company, and the truth is that Belgium is actually not very into crypto. Regardless, around 20% of our sales in the campaign came from Belgium. The largest demand came from, as we expected, the USA. Around 30% of turnover stems from the USA region. The third place was for France at 9%, then the UK, Spain, and the Netherlands.
Gemini Unveils Hardware Key Compatibility on Mobile App
U.S.-based exchange Gemini announced hardware key compatibility for its mobile application, bolstering security capabilities for customers.
Gemini revealed hardware security key functionality for its mobile application, giving customers compatibility with devices such as YubiKey for added security.
Thanks to WebAuthn compatibility on Gemini’s app, iOS and Android “Gemini customers can now use USB and near-field communication, or NFC, security keys to securely sign into the Gemini Mobile App,” the exchange said Tuesday in a statement provided to Cointelegraph.
The Addition Bolsters Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, allows for added security beyond a simple website password login.
If enabled, 2FA requires a code from a mobile device for website login after a user inputs their password. The code — a single-use, time-based string of numbers — comes from either a text message or a third-party application, depending on the user’s settings.
Other formats also exist for 2FA, requiring a physical device plug-in for logins, such as Yubico’s YubiKey. Hardware keys serve as one approach to protection against hacking or mobile phone SIM card swapping.
Gemini And Yubico Partner Up
Also part of the announcement, Gemini and Yubico have teamed up. “Yubikeys provide a secure, cross-platform solution you can use to access your Gemini account via our Mobile App, as well as any other sites that support WebAuthn,” the statement said.
Gemini’s main browser-based platform unveiled WebAuthn and physical security device compatibility in May 2019, a separate company statement said.
Security is key in the crypto space — an industry showing no shortage of hacks and data breaches.
A Deep-Dive Into Some Of The ZERO Wallet’s Advanced Security Features
Cointelegraph gets techy with CEO Ruben Merre, on some of the NGRAVE wallet’s security advances.
From its initial announcement back in April to the $430,000 raised in the recently completed crowd-sale, the NGRAVE ZERO has created huge buzz in the crypto community. Billed as the most secure hardware wallet available, the permanently air-gapped ZERO is the first to gain a top security rating of EAL7.
But the devil is in the details so they say, so while waiting for the first units of the device to ship, Cointelegraph asked NGRAVE CEO Ruben Merre to explain just how one goes about making the “most secure hardware wallet in the world.”
Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention
The ZERO came about following the NGRAVE founders’ poor experiences with crypto security. Not finding any existing solutions that they would completely trust with their cryptocurrency, they set about building their own.
In April 2018 the team began to develop a working prototype using a Raspberry Pi. It was the start of a journey which would see them collaborate with many world class teams and individuals, including the recent acquisition of Jean-Jacques Quisquater as an advisor.
Quisquater is considered the father of zero knowledge proof cryptography, and is famously cited in the Bitcoin whitepaper. So what does he bring to the development of a secure hardware wallet?
“Jean-Jacques is closely involved in revealing and resolving potential security threats, even those that are on practically no one else’s radar. Because he was involved in the development of the many security projects including those by secret government instances, he knows backdoors as no other. He’s also one of the minds in our team that helps us think future-proof.”
No Man Is An Island… But The NGRAVE ZERO Is
Much has been made of the fact that the ZERO remains fully air-gapped, eschewing USB and Bluetooth connectivity to communicate solely via QR codes which contain no data about the users private keys.
Also, private keys generated by the wallet’s Perfect Key system are not derived purely from a “master-seed” shipped with the device. For extra security they incorporate elements of biometric data such as fingerprints and the introduction of environmental randomness from factors such as light levels.
This might leave you wondering how you will import your existing cryptocurrency private keys onto the device, and whether they will be as secure as freshly generated ones.
“We support all the available ‘status quo’ ways of generating seeds, so you can both import a mnemonic phrase made with another hardware wallet, regardless of the length, or you can also simply create a new one on ZERO.
While we recommend using the NGRAVE Perfect Key because of its advanced security features, the user can basically choose what he or she feels most comfortable with.”
Can’t Touch This
Finally, in case anybody gets their grubby little mitts on your physical device, the ZERO has four different cumulative levels of tamper-proofing.
The first is tamper resistance, including shielding of radio frequencies, and the physical difficulty of gaining access to the device’s innards.
Then comes tamper evidence, which means that if anyone does manage to break open the device, the screen will break and it will be apparent to the user. It also incorporates cryptographic attestation, whereby NGRAVE will verify a device on first use.
“The third level is called “tamper responsiveness”. This means there are mechanisms in place inside the device that will notice that it is under attack. And ZERO will then automatically wipe the keys. This goes as deep as on the level of individual components that have their own anti-tamper mechanisms.”
Finally, there is tamper resolution, which takes place when the user is manipulating the private key in the aforementioned generation process. This results in the resolution of any potential tampering or pre-defined keys in the device.
Cointelegraph will get hands on with the device as soon as it starts shipping to bring you a full review.
A Newly Discovered Vulnerability In Ledger Wallet Could Be Disastrous If Not Properly Fixed
Ledger has failed to fully fix a major vulnerability that allows for a “Bitcoin Fork” attack.
A recent report contends that the Ledger app has failed to fix a major vulnerability that allows for a “Bitcoin Fork” attack.
Mo Nokhbeh has claimed that Ledger’s wallet fails to properly isolate the apps responsible for authorizing the transactions of different assets. This creates a vulnerability where a user’s wallet can be fooled into authorizing a transaction for a less valuable asset — such as Litecoin (LTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) or any other Bitcoin fork coin — when in reality, a Bitcoin (BTC) transaction is being released. Nokhbeh told Cointelegraph:
“This app should be isolated such that it only signs for testnet derivation paths. However, sending it a regular mainnet bitcoin transaction will pass. In addition, it will present the TX as if it’s testnet bitcoin, to a testnet bitcoin address.”
According to Nokhbeh, he made Ledger fully aware of this vulnerability, and despite acknowledging it, the company has failed to fix it. Instead, they have chosen to release an update to their existing app that will provide users with a warning prompt if such an exploit is detected.
Blockchain Phones And Bitcoin Watches: Revisiting The Crypto Tech Hype
Blockchain smartphones and crypto-storing watches: Which innovative devices have actually gone from concept to reality?
Talk of cryptocurrency and blockchain-powered gadgets inevitably spiked alongside the hype for token prices. But looking back, have they delivered any meaningful changes to users, or are they just another result of the hype synonymous with the space?
The surge of interest in the space came to a head in 2017 as Bitcoin (BTC) hit never-before-seen highs of around $20,000 before crashing dramatically and entering the bearish crypto winter. While the collapse left devastation in its wake, the months of focus brought Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology into the mainstream consciousness like never before.
Many projects were conceptualized and brought to life during that period, and that inspiration led to a number of technological developments that were aimed at cryptocurrency users and blockchain innovators.
Blockchain smartphones and cryptocurrency-enabled luxury watches have grabbed headlines over the past few years. Some have received positive feedback, while it’s not clear if other products have even seen the light of day.
Smartphones have become a literal extension of the bodies of billions of people over the past decade. According to Statista, over 40% of the global population uses smartphones, meaning that over 3 billion people have them. The likes of Samsung, Huawei and Apple’s iPhone are dominating the sector with the latest technology crammed into their futuristic devices.
Smartphones can do almost anything these days, and it was only a matter of time before cryptocurrency and blockchain applications were integrated into these companion-like devices. Indeed, there are a handful of manufacturers that are positioning their devices as blockchain smartphones.
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 is probably the most high profile, although the device itself isn’t “blockchain-powered” but, more specifically, blockchain-enabled. The S10 made headlines for its application for storing cryptocurrency private keys, dubbed Samsung Knox, as well as a built-in cryptocurrency wallet, the Blockchain Keystore.
Over the course of 2019, the Galaxy S10 added support for over 30 different cryptocurrencies in its wallet. Toward the end of the year, Samsung launched the “KlaytnPhone,” a variant of the Galaxy Note 10 that featured its cryptocurrency wallet and Knox application and also rewarded users with 2000 Klay tokens, the native currency of the Klaytn blockchain.
These crypto and blockchain features were integrated into the company’s latest Galaxy S20 smartphone.
Taiwanese electronics firm HTC also has its own blockchain smartphone, the Exodus. Launched in March 2019, the device was originally only available for prepurchase using cryptocurrency, but it became available via fiat as well.
The Exodus comes standard with a hardware wallet application that allows users to store their own private keys. It also comes with the Opera browser, which provides access to a plethora of decentralized applications. As Wired summed up in its product test, it’s a useful smartphone that provides reliable applications for cryptocurrency users.
The latest edition of the HTC blockchain smartphone is the Exodus 1S, which it claims is the first device capable of running a full Bitcoin node. The device’s social key-recovery feature was applauded by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, as it allows users to give parts of private keys to trusted contacts to enable recovery.
The HTC Exodus 1 can only be purchased from the manufacturer’s website, although not all payment options are available, and its Binance model appears to be out of stock. The HTC Exodus 1S is only available for purchase in certain regions and is not yet available worldwide.
Blockchain startup Sirin Labs laid claim to the title of the first company to launch a blockchain smartphone in November 2018 with the “Finney.” The device comes standard with a built-in cold storage wallet, token conversion service and DApp ecosystem powered by its proprietary Sirin operating system.
The cold storage is physically separate from the rest of the device, and users can carry out peer-to-peer transactions without the need for a centralized exchange. The Finney appears to only be listed for purchase on the Sirin Labs website, although it was also available on Amazon at one point.
Pundi X, a decentralized offline cryptocurrency sales network, is reportedly also working on developing its own blockchain smartphone. The company claims that its “Blok on Blok,” or BOB, smartphone will have all data executed by its Function X blockchain.
According to the company, users will be able to switch between two operating systems: a blockchain mode and a conventional Android mode. The blockchain mode aims to give users complete control over their data. The project will be bankrolled by a crowdfunding initiative, and only 5,000 devices will be offered in the first manufacturing run.
All things considered, the devices that were released were seemingly met well. Further development of crypto-enabled smartphones with reliable functionality may introduce a swathe of new users to the space, provided they offer the same level of experience as any non-crypto smartphone.
Furthermore, aside from Samsung’s S10 and Galaxy Note models, these devices seem fairly difficult to acquire online, as they are mostly only listed for sale on their own websites.
Nice Watch, But Does It Accept Crypto?
While cryptocurrency functionality is slowly being incorporated into handheld devices, three world-renowned Swiss watchmaking companies have released timepieces that are inspired by Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
In September 2018, Hublot announced the launch of its Big Bang Meca-10 P2P watch. The Bitcoin-inspired timepiece was designed as a commemorative collector’s item celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the preeminent cryptocurrency.
Only 210 watches were made in the collection, with that number symbolizing the 21 million supply limit of Bitcoin. The watch was initially valued at $25,000, and prospective buyers had to sign up for a presale managed by Asia-based digital asset brokerage firm OSL. Another caveat was that these watches could only be purchased with Bitcoin.
It is not clear if the limited Hublot watches were actually built and sold. A confirmation request sent by Cointelegraph remained unanswered at the time of publishing.
Another luxury Swiss watchmaker, Franck Muller, also launched its own cryptocurrency-inspired timepiece in May 2019. The “Encrypto” watch series was released in partnership with investment firm Regal Assets, with its core functionality featuring a Bitcoin cold storage function.
The Frank Muller Encrypto line now features different styles for both men and women, with price tags ranging from $20,000 to $65,000. The different watches are made of various luxury materials including gold, diamond and carbon fiber.
The dial of the watches includes a laser-etched QR code for its corresponding public wallet address for receiving Bitcoin payments.
Users also receive a USB stick that stores the private key of the corresponding public address. Franck Muller has claimed that its deep cold storage wallet “cannot be hacked” and uses “offline generated, non-deterministic TRNGs (True Random Numbers Generated).” Like the Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 P2P, the Franck Muller Encrypto can be bought with either BTC or fiat currencies.
The third Swiss watchmaker to have announced the design of a luxury watch with a built-in cryptocurrency cold wallet is A. Favre & Fils.
The company unveiled a concept idea of what it claimed as the first-ever Swiss handcrafted mechanical watch with a built-in cryptocurrency cold wallet and state-of-the-art security solution.
The watch was expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2019, and it was touted to cost in excess of $100,000, making it the most expensive cryptocurrency cold wallet timepiece on the market. Cointelegraph reached out to A. Favre & Fils to find out if the timepieces were ever released but received no response as of publication.
It seems clear that as technology progresses, more functionality is being crammed into the latest devices. Whether it’s a smartphone or luxury timepiece, there’s a good chance that the item has some serious technological capabilities beneath the surface.
This is the case with cryptocurrency-enabled gadgets. Devices are now being delivered to the market with built-in cold storage wallets, decentralized and centralized exchange applications, and numerous other functions.
Some of these gadgets are arguably overhyped, but it seems that the majority of companies that are incorporating cryptocurrency support into these devices are trying to give users the best in security and functionality.
Meet Torus, The One-Click Blockchain Wallet Trying To Make Web3 As Easy As Chrome
People may like the idea of blockchains and web 3.0, but they tend to hit an immediate obstacle in the form of private cryptographic keys and mnemonic seed phrases that cannot be lost, forgotten or divulged at any cost.
Private key management specialist Torus replaces that jarring user experience with what appears to be a familiar single login, but one that’s reinforced behind the scenes by a clever distributed architecture built for web 3.0.
Announced Monday, the Singapore-based startup has released a one-click Chrome browser extension for its Torus wallet and added a new product called tKey, a custom version of two-factor authentication (2FA). The extension will also work in Brave.
When information is exchanged online, users don’t want to know about the underlying public key infrastructure (PKI) – and so it should be with blockchains and the next generation of the internet, or “Web3,” said Torus Labs CEO Zhen Ju Yong.
But while people don’t want that tricky user interface, they do, of course, want to control the process in a decentralized manner, Zhen added.
“Our goal is to make key management convenient to the mainstream user – my parents, for example – to be able to use crypto, while still retaining the level of security and non-custodiality which is needed for decentralized applications,” Zhen said in an interview.
“We’ve always seen ourselves more as a key management company rather than a wallet. We are kind of a step up for wallets, more like an
How Torus Works
At a high level, Torus splits and distributes sensitive data needed to construct a user’s private key between the user and nodes on the Torus network, which includes Binance, Ethereum Name Service (ENS), Etherscan, Matic Network, Ontology, Skale, Tendermint Core and Zilliqa.
Distributed key generation is generally divided into three parts, or “secret shares” (Shamir’s Secret Sharing, or SSS, for the technically conversant), with two held by the user and the third further split across the Torus network.
The new tKey release allows users to easily add and control incremental layers of security, a kind of customizable 2FA that works like a smart contract, said Zhen. An obvious extra security layer to add would be a mobile phone, which could store a user’s additional secret share in its secure enclave, protected by a biometric passcode.
If the user has more than one mobile device, they could add as many layers of security as they want.
Similar to other 2FA systems, as long as the user has access to two out of three of their secret shares, they will be able to retrieve their private keys and login.
‘On The Shoulders Of Giants’
For many users, logging into dapps is done by authenticating with MetaMask, the kind of default Ethereum browser wallet. Torus has built on top of MetaMask (although it should be mentioned that the ConsenSys-backed plugin recently changed its licensing) to create its new Chrome extension.
“We greatly appreciate the MetaMask team’s hard work and development,” Torus wrote in a press statement. “However, due to Torus’ necessity of being open source, Torus Extension (forked from 22 June 2020) continues to use its older MIT license.”
Zhen described the arrangement as “building on the shoulders of giants” and stressed that Torus is not seeking an edge over MetaMask.
“By no means do we feel like we want to compete with MetaMask. We’re actually in talks with MetaMask with regards to their licensing changes, and about potentially integrating,” he said.
In July of last year, Torus raised a $2 million seed round led by Multicoin Capital including Coinbase Ventures and Binance Labs, while testing the first version of hassle-free login using Gmail, akin to OAuth protocol on the internet.
Torus has always had a close relationship with Binance, which invested $500,000 in the seed round, and the largest exchange by volume is now playing a central role in the new Torus product releases.
“We’re super-excited that Binance actually co-developed tKey with us, and it’s going to be an open-source SDK,” said Zhen. “We are launching this together. Along with this SDK, Binance itself and the Chrome extension for Binance DEX and Smart Chain is going to have both Torus and tKey integrated into it as one of the core key management flows.”
Bitcoin Hardware Devices Need To Improve To Handle Complex Transactions
Time for hardware wallet devices to make a difference.
Jameson Lopp, co-founder and CTO of Casa, a crypto custody firm has released a test result report on Bitcoin multi-signature hardware signing performance on the Casa blog on Sep. 13.
The result shows that hardware crypto wallet devices can handle small, simple transactions well. However, they have trouble performing once the transaction becomes complicated. Casa is said to be built upon geographically distributed multisig, dedicated hardware devices to secure keys, designed user experience, and client services.
Lopp pointed out that while the company has no control over the hardware devices, the goal is to support any device at the end of the day. Thus, he decided to conduct research and hoped to draw some conclusions and help multisig software providers better understand the limits of hardware and customize wallet software for better performance.
Casa is currently compatible with six hardware including Trezor, Ledger, Coinkite and Coldcard The test was done on all the supported hardware devices and also BitBox.
Lopp set up the test by leveraging Electrum’s 4.0.2 appimage on Debian Linux and created a variety of P2WSH (native segwit) multisig wallets that use Bitcoin’s testnet and with the hardware devices plugged in via USB. In each wallet, there was a deposit of 100 UTXOs.
Lopp created a series of tests to determine these hardware wallet capabilities when signing multi-signature transactions of varying complexity. He repeated these tests and concluded that it’s better and more secure if hardware devices can show progress indicators for loading and signing. He added that:
“I came to really dislike hardware devices that don’t show progress indicators for loading and signing. As such, I highly prefer Coldcard and Trezor in this respect. BitBox and Ledger are anxiety-inducing because you have no idea if anything is actually happening.”
When it comes to overcoming transaction size limitation and delay of transaction processing time, Lopp suggested that hardware wallets could try to break up a send into multiple smaller transactions that are below its limits.
When the transaction process takes too long, some devices will lock itself from inactivity. Lopp suggests that the least device manufacturers could do to avoid such inconvenience is to disable the screen lock timeout while the device is still working on the transaction.
According to Lopp, hardware devices should also support Partially signed Bitcoin transactions (PSBT) and all possible valid multisig transactions. He added that:
“I believe it’s time for hardware manufacturers to start acting like platform providers and ensure that they are providing robust platforms that can be used to build a wide variety of solutions.”
There are two steps for hardware devices to follow when signing a Bitcoin transaction, according to Lopp:
“First, The transaction gets loaded onto the device, it parses the details and displays them on the screen for user confirmation. These details are generally the address(es) to which funds are being sent, the amount(s) being sent, and the fee being paid. Then, Upon user confirmation, the device signs each transaction input and then returns the signed transaction to the wallet software.”
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