The razor-thin balance between seeking mass adoption of Bitcoin and keeping it a tool of sovereignty is now playing out among hardware wallet producers.
Conjuring complicated threat scenarios and thought experiments of hypothetical attacks on your Bitcoin stack: that’s just a typical Tuesday for today’s generation of Bitcoiners.
Whether it’s about reverse shotgun KYC, malicious scammers phishing for seed phrases, or state-sponsored network attacks to make Bitcoin unusable, measuring and countering risk is one of the most fundamental aspects to Bitcoin.
You know the refrain:
––Don’t Trust! Verify! Run your own node! Check the code! Secure your key!––
The boomerang of doom scenarios returned once again this week when hardware wallet company Ledger announced its new “Recover” service.
Put simply, the company would help coordinate an additional backup layer of your seed phrase and hardware signing device, linking your private key to your photo ID, and sending fragmented “encrypted” versions of your key to 3 different entities.
The idea, we gather, is to give piece of mind for Bitcoin users who are afraid they’ll lose their key or forget their seed phrase. All good and dandy. Until you actually think about the details and see just how alien all of these steps are to true sovereign Bitcoin use and storage.
SethForPrivacy gave a much more articulate and technical breakdown of why this service is a terrible idea, and I’ll only add one simple point: it completely eliminates the entire point of Bitcoin. Sovereign money!
Custody of your private key and seed phrase, whether written on a piece of paper, or secured within a chip on your hardware wallet, is the point!
Doxxing your entire Bitcoin stack with your government ID, throwing around private keys like hot potatoes…these are not traits of freedom money.
There is a reason hardware wallets exist: not just to be safeguard and store your Bitcoin, but also to control how and when it can be spent. The hardware wallet offers a next level of security beyond just the writing down of 12 or 24 words.
That’s why this entire product launch is a disappointing one. Because the customer is not even YOU, it’s the Bitcoiners who will come after YOU. Mass adoption over cypherpunks.
Ledger wants to make Bitcoin as simple as a bank account, with all the safeguards that come with the risk. They want to eliminate the worry that any Bitcoin newcomer will have when they transition from the traditional banking regime.
But if we actually want to protect the integrity and advantages of Bitcoin for the future, if we actually want to fix the money rather than just create a Banking System 2.0, it will mean standing on principle.
Self-custody. Personal responsibility. Real ownership.
this week: It was excellent (and rather timely) that Niko was able to sit down with Douglas Bakkum, co-founder & CEO at Shift Crypto makers of the Bitbox02 hardware wallet, to talk about these principles on the Fix The Money podcast.
Check it out below:
In the meantime, get your hands off my hardware wallet!
Published on Fix The Money.