Turning up the heat on cold storage

Sunday 08 June 2014

Everyone knows about cold storage right? It's getting so HOT! Mike Ward puts one of the most durable cold storage options through its paces to see just how much this crypto card can withstand.

Durable cryo cardTechnically you can make paper wallets and tape them to the underside of your furniture, but come on, crypto has transcended that stage by now for most folks. After examining some of the options out there for the more durable 'paper wallets', or crypto cards, I thought I would put their claims to the test. So, I set out to test the durability of the best crypto card I could find, and record the video so folks would not need to do this themselves!

Hardware is the way forward for many users; that could mean dedicated netbooks, with wi-fi and bluetooth destroyed before they ever had a chance to search for a connection. It could mean bootable USB drives with linux distros installed. It could mean dedicated hardware devices of various types, but that's not what I'm talking about today.

I recently got a card from a company called Cryobit. It's some space-age combo of marine grade stainless steel and a ceramic glass compound layered on top for the QR codes that looks like something you'd find on the outside of a space shuttle. It's a credit card sized device, but heavier than plastic, as it's made from that pretty serious metal.  

In an earlier review of durable paper wallets we carefully went over the impressive technical specifications for this card with the founder. For the record, the company never claimed that this card is indestructable. That kind of thing would hardly be affordable anyway. But it does represent a kickass way to protect your bitcoin from anything mother nature will be able to throw at it, and then some.

I decided to put that to the test, but after a while I got frustrated, and ended up subjecting it to blows from a hammer. No, the QR code was not scannable by my little iphone app after the hammer abuse, but on closer inspection it was apparent that the QR code wouldn't scan because of the deformed metal. That is to say that the hammer blows had bent the metal surface such that it no longer reflected light evenly, wreaking havoc with my QR scan apps. A little touchup work in Photoshop or Gimp and I could easily have a scannable code again.

Having said that, the sage advice here is to store copies of your encrypted private key on a local machine as well as at a trusted location on the Internet. Do not ever store the private key in plaintext, no matter how clever you think you're being about it. If it's ever compromised, all of the bitcoin at this address can be spent.

The Durable Cryo-Card

So what did I do to test this badass cryo-card? I started with fire of course! I took out my trusty butane stove, cooking this sucker like a fiery batch of Thai curry. Yeah, no surprise here - it had no effect other than to deposit a layer of residue from the butane. By the way, if you should ever accidentally cook your cryo-card on a butane stove until the thick deposits discolor it, it's worth noting that a weak acid will remove that. You can even clean it with a really fine steel wool. Remember, the ceramic material is chemically bonded to the metal, so abrasion like light scrubbing with steel wool will not remove the QR code.

I did soak it in bleach, followed by heating it yet again until the edges were red and glowing. I thought I could kill the zombie card by tossing it, while still glowing red hot, into a pile of ice in my freezer. It did warp the card a bit, but the QR code still easily scanned, so, I carefully weighed my options. True to my primate insticts, I decided to just use brute force and validate my manhood with a display of dominance, and I hammered this hapless card into submission.

It's a simple technique really; I held it at an angle against the concrete outside my home, and considered the rude drivers on the road earlier that day. The hammer head did not strike flatly, and left gouges and valleys which rendered the QR code un-scannable. When I reflected on it later, it seemed pretty unlikely that it would be useful to have a card capable of withstand such determined human abuse. Fire - yes. Water - hell yes. Hammer-weilding brutes, not so much. But so long as hammers are not a big danger where you live, this card should hold up just fine to ordinary monsoons, home fires, and even small children.

Mike Ward


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