If you do not own any bitcoin, and wish to acquire some, please see the following page:
hyperlink/pages/how_to_buy_bitcoinHow to buy bitcoin
This page describes how you can store bitcoin yourself and be certain that you can retrieve it later.
- Bitcoin software
- Working safely with private keys
- Creating a private key
- Storing private keys
- Generating a Bitcoin address
- Testing a Bitcoin address
- More information
You will need:
- Some dice (e.g. 5)
- An offline computer
- Bitcoin software
- A pen
- Two sealed waterproof containers
Before setting up an offline computer, you can use an online computer to test this entire approach using a small amount of bitcoin.
The offline computer must have Python 2.7.x installed. The current code tools have been developed under Python 2.7.13 running on Mac OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard), and should run successfully on other versions of Python 2.7.
Edgecase suggests that you use a Raspberry Pi Model B+ as your offline computer. It is small, portable, and does not have built-in WiFi. You will need suitable peripherals. Ideally, these peripherals should be dedicated to the Raspberry Pi and never connected to an online computer. Edgecase suspects that it is or will become possible to attack the chips within computer peripherals.
Example set of peripherals: An 8GB micro SD card with NOOBS preinstalled, a Raspberry Pi power cable, a screen with a DVI port, a DVI male-male connector cable, a DVI female to HDMI male converter, a screen power cable, a USB keyboard, a USB mouse, and a plastic case customised for the Raspberry Pi Model B+. NOOBS is an operating system installer that allows you to select from a number of operating systems for Raspberry Pi. Edgecase recommends the Raspbian operating system (a variant of Debian customised for the Raspberry Pi). According to the documentation, Raspbian is the only operating system that is actually fully contained within NOOBS (a network connection is required in order to install any of the other systems). The default login should be "pi" and the default password should be "raspberry".
If the Raspberry Pi OS does not have Python 2.7.x installed already, you can connect the Raspberry Pi to the Internet, download and install Python 2.7.x, and then disconnect it permanently.
If you choose to use a Windows computer, you will need to search through the Bitcoin software supplied by Edgecase and replace every instance of \\n with \\r\\n, otherwise the output will be difficult to read.
Edgecase is a supplier of Bitcoin software.
All Edgecase software items are stored as assets of articles published on Edgecase Datafeed. All Edgecase Datafeed articles have been digitally signed and timestamped on the Bitcoin blockchain, forming an unalterable record. Edgecase Datafeed may publish updates but can never alter previously published articles and assets.
Please see the following pages to find out how to verify an article or an asset. These recipes will allow you to be certain that items downloaded from Edgecase Datafeed have not been altered since their publication.
hyperlink/pages/how_to_verify_a_datafeed_articleHow to verify a datafeed article
hyperlink/pages/how_to_verify_an_assetHow to verify an asset
Working safely with private keys
The only thing that matters in Bitcoin is knowledge of private keys, as these grant complete control over any bitcoin in the corresponding Bitcoin addresses. If someone discovers one of your private keys and transfers the corresponding bitcoin to one of their addresses, this transaction will not be reversible.
A photograph of a private key is as good as the private key itself (notably, this is not the case with gold). If you store bitcoin yourself, you must take into account the fact that it could be stolen using a camera. Examples:
- Your mobile phone could be attacked using a zero-day vulnerability, allowing the integrated camera to be hijacked.
- A long-range camera could be used to take a picture of your workplace through a window.
A private key must never be stored, however temporarily, on an online computer. Any human or program that can gain access to this computer could discover the private key. For this reason, all cryptographic operations that require the use of a private key (e.g. signing a Bitcoin transaction) should be performed on an offline computer.
You may wish to connect a computer to the Internet in order to download and install necessary software, but once you have done so you should never connect it to the Internet again. Ideally, this computer should not have any wireless communication capability (i.e. no WiFi or Bluetooth chip installed).
Since it is difficult to be certain that a private key no longer exists on a computer (e.g. in some temporary archival section of the filesystem), any computer used to store a private key, however temporarily, must never be later connected to the Internet. If you no longer wish to keep this computer, you should destroy it.
Creating a private key
A Bitcoin private key controls the bitcoin that is stored in a particular address. Private keys should be as difficult as possible for an adversary to guess.
Example Bitcoin private key (64 characters, 32 hex bytes):
To learn how to create a private key, please go to the following page:
hyperlink/pages/how_to_create_a_bitcoin_private_keyHow to create a Bitcoin private key
Storing private keys
You should make backup copies of your private keys, in case any one copy is lost, damaged, or destroyed.
Any cryptographic operation that involves private keys should be performed on an offline computer. You should store this offline computer as safely as you store the private keys, and perhaps prepare a duplicate computer in case the first one stops working.
- Storing the offline computer in some hidden, secure place.
- Writing down the private keys on high-quality paper.
- Storing two copies of the private keys together in a sealed waterproof container. Two copies are protection against any damage to one copy. A sealed waterproof container protects the private keys against flood, rain, and damp.
- Preparing an additional two copies in a second sealed waterproof container and storing this container in a second separate location. This is protection against the risk of fire in the first location.
Generating a Bitcoin address
Bitcoin is stored in Bitcoin addresses. An address is generated from a private key. You can use the private key you created earlier to generate a Bitcoin address.
Example Bitcoin address (34 characters):
To learn how to generate an address, please go to the following page:
hyperlink/pages/how_to_generate_a_bitcoin_addressHow to generate a Bitcoin address
It is unlikely that there will be an error in the address generation process, but if you wish to be certain that you can retrieve bitcoin from a particular address, please read the next section "Testing a Bitcoin address".
When you wish to transfer bitcoin out of this address, you can create a transaction that does so. Signing a transaction requires the use of private keys, so signatures should only be made on an offline computer. To learn how to create and sign a Bitcoin transaction, please see the following page:
hyperlink/pages/how_to_create_and_sign_a_bitcoin_transactionHow to create and sign a Bitcoin transaction
Testing a Bitcoin address
No matter how much analysis is performed, it is always possible that there may be an error / bug in the code + hardware stack that generates the Bitcoin address from the private key. If such an error exists, and an address is incorrectly calculated from a private key, and bitcoin is transferred to this address, it will not be possible to retrieve this bitcoin. It will now be controlled by an unknown private key.
The only way to be certain that bitcoin can be transferred out of an address is to test it. To test an address, move a small amount of bitcoin into and then out of it.
Once an address has been tested, a larger amount of bitcoin can now be moved into this address and the owner can be certain that it can be retrieved. Even if the owner later discovers an error in the code + hardware stack used to create and sign a transaction, he/she knows that eventually this error could be fixed and a valid transaction could be created. The owner would only risk a temporary lack of access to the bitcoin, not its permanent loss.
To learn how to test an address, please go to the following page:
hyperlink/pages/how_to_test_a_bitcoin_addressHow to test a Bitcoin address
Once you have tested an address, you can store a large amount of bitcoin on it, and know for certain that you will be able to retrieve it in the future.
If you are concerned that someone else may accidentally generate a private key that matches one of your private keys, you may be interested in reading this analysis:
- Browse to the article
articleUsing_a_transaction_to_validate_a_Bitcoin_addressedgecase66Using a transaction to validate a Bitcoin address
. Go to the Thoughts section. Read the part "What is the chance of two people independently generating the same Bitcoin address?".