Let me explain. I need a private key (maybe a paper private wallet/key that I show to Mycelium) to let the app know that I am the true owner of the "account". So my smartphone (freshly factory resetted and Mycelium has been installed from an .apk file downloaded from the website previously, installed from the SD card socket) goes online to broadcast the transaction and there is a small chance that there is a person or machine trying to hack into my smartphone, plant snooping software and work out my private key. Yes, it's unlikely to happen, but it could happen. My bitcoin stash isn't 100% safe. submitted by
So let's imagine an intermediary smartphone. Factory resetted, and the apk file installed from the SD card socket. I could take a soldering iron to the wifi chip and overheat it, so it's unusable online. Basically, this smartphone has never and will never go online. Ever.
This smartphone scans my paper private key. It then processes it and produces a 'safe' key, maybe it's the public key, maybe it's an intermediary. It's displayed on the screen of my safe smartphone. My second smartphone then scans the screen of that, and broadcasts that key.
I hope that I've got the terminology alright. Here are my questions:
Does this exist? What's it called (the method)? Which apps provide functionality?
The Three Legged Stool of safe storage. I've given a lot of thought about how I can safely store my Bitcoins. I want to share my method in the hope others may find this helpful and any discussion could also help me. I'm not intending this as a beginners guide to cold storage, plenty already exist. But people, both new and familiar with cold storage, can benefit from the applications and ideas I'm suggesting here.
The Three Legged Stool, what's this about? There are just three ways to unintentionally lose your coins: Leg 1, They can be stolen Leg 2, They can be physically lost Leg 3, You can forget how to access them
The snag is that anything done to improve security to one Leg tends to increase the risk of loss caused by being out of balance with the other two Legs. For example, to protect your coins against Leg 1 (being stolen) you may hide the coins private key in a password protected container somewhere in your house. My point is that you have reduced the risk of Leg 1 (getting them stolen) but at the same time increased the risk of Leg 2 (physically lost) and Leg 3 (forget the password). This is especially true with long term storage. Equally, not using a password protects against Leg 3 but increases the risks from Leg 1 and is of no help against Leg 2. The objective is a balanced stool, keeping your coins safe and also always available for spending.
How it can be done: My preferred method is using Paper Wallets with BIP38 encryption. With secure passwords, these are so safe you can keep multiple copies of the same wallet all over the place. Keep copies at work, at home, at your parents house and even carry the private key QR code with your phone in case you want to spend a chunk of Bitcoins unexpectedly. Brute force attacks on BIP38 wallets are so slow, I can't think it's possible to crack a strong password of let's say 10 random letters, numbers and symbols. So this is total protection against Leg 1 and Leg 2 but forget that password Leg 3.... and your coins are gone forever!
Here's the clever bit. So how can you guarantee never to forget that complex wallet password? Yes! There's an App for that, "Infinite Password Generator" (IPG) is truly brilliant. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=yuku.infinitepassgen.app
The only permission this App has is to access Google Play payment services so I don't think it can give any secrets back to the developer. Install this app and make backups of the APK, save backups on several devices in case it's ever removed from Google Play. If you change your phone you will want to be able to install IPG from your APK backups and it's best not to update this App. If you do update it then always check it is generating the same passwords using the procedure explained below.
IPG generates complex passwords by combining your own "Master Password" with a Keyword. As an example, your Master Password must be something you can NEVER forget like the house number and road name you lived in as a child. The Keyword is a unique identifier for this Paper Wallet, maybe a name and incrementing sequence number like wallet3. IPG combines these two fields to generate a secure repeatable password you can use as the input to the BIP38 encryption.
IPG let's you save its configuration settings and you need to do this: Fill in the Master Password, put your name in the Keyword field, press Show and select the type and length of BIP38 password you want then press Copy (to the clipboard). Now, paste the generated password over the Personal notes (optional) field. Next, delete the Master Password field and Save, then exit IPG.
Open IPG and Load your saved file, fill in Master Password then Copy/paste the generated password under the original copy of the password and if you did this all correctly you will have generated exactly the same password, confirming you put in the Master Password correctly. Now change the Keyword field to your chosen Wallet Identifier, let's use my example above wallet3 and this will generate the required unique password for that BIP38 Paper Wallet you're about to make. I would write 3 as a hint on all copies of this Paper Wallet to make sure I don't forget the full Keyword. The next Paper Wallet I generate being wallet4, marked 4. Also I paste a copy of the IPG generated password into a Truecrypt encrypted container as a last chance disaster recovery.
Final steps to use IPG safely. You must close this App correctly otherwise it stays a while in memory containing all your secret information. Then you need to clear the clipboard of the wallet password and I've been using an App called Clipboard Autoclear+ to do this. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.tactilesoftworks.clipboardsentinel
I've used two Paper Wallet generators, my favorite is https://www.bitaddress.org
but it's a bit cumbersome to produce multiple copies of the same wallet. I also like https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com
because they can produce Testnet Wallets which is a coin identical to Bitcoin but uses valueless coins purely to be for testing purposes. Google Testnet Wallets for more info.
Spending from your Paper Wallet is easier to do than explain and I started by using the Blockchain.info Android App. But this has let me down with an error message "insufficient funds" and I see many complaints about this problem. I wrote to Blockchain.info about it but got no reply. Since then I moved to Mycelium Wallet https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mycelium.wallet
and have had no problems with this. Also they do a Testnet version of Mycelium which is incredibly useful.
In Mycelium you just scan your Paper Wallets public address to watch how many Bitcoins there are in them. When you want to spend from the Paper Wallet, first run IPG, load the file and fill in the passwords then copy the Paper Wallet password to the clipboard. During the Send transaction Mycelium will ask to scan the wallet Private Key, it then asks for the BIP38 password which you can paste in from IPG and the amount of Bitcoin to send and off it goes.
A couple of important points to consider if you're not spending the full amount from the Paper Wallet. Once your private key has been used like this you really should send the remaining Bitcoins the next Paper Wallet in the sequence called, using my example, wallet4. That's because once a private key has been used or exposed to an online device, it's no longer safe to consider it as cold storage. If you don't spend all the coins on your Paper Wallet it's likely you will get back change and you must be sure the Wallet App you're using supports this or your change will disappear as a donation to the mining community. Mycelium and Blockchain.info Wallets automatically look after sending your change back to the Paper Wallet's corresponding public address. OTHER APPS MIGHT NOT DO THIS SO BE CAREFUL.
Generating Paper Wallets should be done on an offline device such as an old Android phone factory reset and only used for this purpose or a bootable Linux USB.
In conclusion this approach overcomes my doubts about my ability to remember long term secure passwords, possibly years after I made them up, because I shouldn't forget the Master Password as it's something so personal to me and the Keyword is almost attached to the Paper Wallet. Leg 3 is dealt with and Legs 2 and 3 now take care of themselves.
I do hope some of you find these ideas helpful. The developer of IPG Yukuku does not make any provision for donations and I would happily make a donation for this excellent App that is also available for Windows.
Disclaimer, these ideas are for your consideration and debate only. I take no responsibility whatsoever for any losses that may arise however they are incurred. I have absolutely no connection or financial interest in any of the applications I have referred to here.
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