A few years ago I was approached by a polish guy named Wojtek who said he was looking to create the most durable cold wallet possible. He was a metal artist and he thought about using this skill in order to create some form of wallet that couldn’t be destroyed.
The idea would be to keep your private keys or mnemonic phrase inside some sort of metal casing that will be resistant to any catastrophe that may occur – a flood, a fire, an earthquake, you name it. In order to raise the funds for this project he started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and a few months later he was fully funded, Cryptosteel was on its way to becoming a reality.
I have to admit that Cryptosteel’s vision seemed very compelling, and the video created for the product illustrated it extremely well:
However, as with many crowdfunding campaigns this project too has seen many obstacles. The product had some unforeseen delays. From manufacturing issues, to postal issues it seemed that a lot of things were preventing Cryptosteel from becoming a reality. However throughout all of these Wojtek kept close contact with his initial investors and made sure that they were up to date. And indeed one year later I’ve received my own Cryptosteel in the mail.
I’m going to start out with the “normal” review and then move on to the fun part – trying to destroy the Cryptosteel 🙂
The product itself is pretty self explanatory, you get a metal plate and a set of numbers and letters to create either your private key or mnemonic seed (to be used with TREZOR).
I must admit it took me a few minutes to understand how to actually open the metal plate in order to enter the letter and numbers, but it’s nothing that 5 minutes and a few hits with a screwdriver wouldn’t solve.
The annoying part is definitely inserting the letters into the Cryptosteel. It took me about 40 seconds for each letter and it didn’t go smoothly to say the least. However, considering that this is (hopefully) a one time process it’s something I can live with.
Also, I’ve gotten enough letters and numbers to create even 2 mnemonic seeds or private keys, so way to go redundancy!
And now for the fun part….
Since there’s not much more to say about the product I thought why not have a little fun with it and see if it’s actually indestructible. So I went out and conducted a few tests…
Overall I’d say the Cryptosteel wallet is one pretty solid cold wallet. However it may be a bit of an overkill. If however, you’re storing large amounts of Bitcoins this is a good additional insurance measure to take at a reasonable price ($49).
At the moment you can only get Cryptosteel through the Indiegogo campaign or as a complementary product when you buy a TREZOR. If you already own a TREZOR this is actually a great product to have for additional protection of your mnemonic seed.
If you own a Cryptosteel and tried to destroy it as well or have some other comments about the product I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.
Click here to view the Cryptosteel for yourself
May 2018 Update:
Recently I’ve been contacted by a company called Billfodl that is sort of a Cryptosteel competitor. Their product looked basically the same so I asked what are the actual differences (if any) from Cryptosteel. Here’s what they had to say:
“Yes, our product is similar to Cryptosteel. We are licensing their design (through the CC 3.0 licence), however there are some noticeable differences/improvements that I would like to bring to you attention.
All of our pieces are laser cut – This gives the product a more tight feel because the pieces fit together in a more exact way. This might not sound like a big difference, but when loading tiles, having all the pieces exactly the correct size is important. This makes them easier to load and makes the gate lock more securely. If you hold the two together and get to play with them, you can feel the difference.
Laser engraved tiles – Sometimes the stamped tiles are slightly crushed causing their shape to be warped, making them difficult to load. Our laser engraved tiles come out exactly the right size every time and are not warped by the engraving process as compared to stamping. Additionally, the laser engraved tiles are easier to read. We have done our own demo tests and they come out of the fire clear and readable.
A Billfodl handles all seed/SK types – Compare Cryptosteel ANYKEY at $149 vs our $79. Additionally, we found it hard to determine which Cryptosteel was needed for a given task. Having only one SKU in this regards helps newbies to the space who might not have the required background knowledge to know their “Recovery Phrase”, as Ledger calls it, is also called a “Mnemonic Seed”
Better packaging prevents tiles from getting mixed up in transit – We solved the problem detailed by this reviewer:”Honestly, the card was pretty useless as my tiles were all jumbled up by the time I received it.”
I have experienced this many times personally with the Cryptosteel product. We also changed the confusing tile arrangement. Why have “A” and “E” in the same hole next to “I” and “S”? We put ours in alphabetical order. All these seemingly small changes add up to a much smoother User Experience. We hope you’ll agree.
Better steel – We use 316 stainless which holds up much better to corrosion than 304 stainless which Cryptosteel uses. It’s used in industrial marine applications and is more expensive, but we feel the performance gains are worth the added cost.
125% money back guarantee – Speaks for itself.
Free shipping in the US, $12 shipping to almost everywhere else – Cheaper than Cryptosteel’s lowest shipping rate to Europe and equal to its rate in the UK. Additionally, because we found efficiencies in fulfillment, we can offer free shipping everywhere (technically 219 out of 241 countries/zones) on orders of 2 or more Billfodls.
We take Lightning Network payments and credit cards – We are proud to be on the leading edge of the crypto movement by being the 4th e-commerce store to accept Lightning Network payments. Any lost payments will still have their items still fulfilled, on us.
Now while Billfodl does make some good arguments I haven’t tested their product personally so I can’t really back any of their claims. However, I thought to bring this to your attention if you’re looking for an alternative solution for Cryptosteel. You can learn more about Billfodl here.
I don’t understand the need for these devices. If you have a passwords list for your online sites, why not just keep a passwords list for bitcoin, or whatever crypto-currency you’re currently accessing? I have a list of over 12 pages of passwords for my online sites. And, it’s NOT on my computer!
Well, the cryptosteel is essentially the same thing, except it’s a list made out of steel. This makes it a lot more durable in the event of a fire or flood. I’d also recommend that you check out password manages, like KeePass for example. They could great simplify your life without compromising your security!
You can generally reset passwords on sites. There is no password reset for these.
Great read, I’m a newbie and just love this article, thanks!
Instead of cryptosteel, why not use dog tags. You can order online for a couple bucks each and you can buy multiple copies. (to store 24 words you might have to have 2 or 3 tags). Should I be paranoid that someone at the dog tag shop will know my mnemonic and mailing address? Or a hackerkeylogger sees it while I am typing it in?
If I am using the Ledger Nano S or other cold storage, someone would have to know the mnemonics, my address, get here from internet world, break into my house, and find my cold storage. They would have to hope I had lots of value in it to make it worthwhile. If you are really paranoid, you can go to the pet store and use their robot machine to make you dog tags – no internet trail.
Question, if I publish my mnemonics for the world to see, can they be used to remotely hack into my Ledger Nano S if it was connected to my computer and my computer was connected to the internet? Thanks.
Ha, I never thought about dogtags. That’s a very creative solution. Provided you use a bunch of different engravers for all the different dog tags, it should be *fairly* safe. The liklelihood of all those different engravers being in contact, discussing your particular job and colluding to steal your coins is pretty low… But not zero.
Similarly, if an evil mail clerk or courier happens to spy into each package and record all the keys, they could steal your coins. That’s also unlikely.
However, there’s a simple and cheap alternative to a cryptosteel which avoids ALL these risks, however unlikely. You simply DIY your own seed phrase backup. All you need is a stainless steel or aluminium plate (any metal which won’t rust and is resistant to extreme temperatures will do) and a letter / number punch set. You can probably pick up a punch kit at a hardware store or metal shop.
Using the pet shop’s embosser (or whatever the machine is called) isn’t quite as safe, as it could have some kind of memory of what you printed which could be accessed.
As for your last question, NEVER PUBLISH YOUR MNEMONIC! Anyone who sees it can 100% access your Bitcoin addresses and move all your coins, without any problems! Your Ledger Nano S won’t be in the loop of this “hack” at all – it doesn’t actually store your coins. Instead it stores the private key to access your coins, which are stored on the blockchain. Your seed phrase is just a human-friendly “translation” of your private key, which is easy to record and remember. By sharing it, you’re sharing your private key and this can then be used by anyone anywhere to move the coins associated with that private key.
Steven, thanks for the response. By confirming that publishing my mnemonic phase is giving away my key, also confirms that a hacker watching me order dog tags would be the same thing. I could put 8 on one tag from my laptop, 8 more from my iPhone over celluar and the final 8 from my work computer, all at different sites. But still, maybe I will look for a metal punch kit. Thanks again.
Yes, quite correct that a key or screenlogger could well capture your order if you input it via your computer. Sending the order by phone or SMS would defeat this, as would some type of substitution code.
I think the letter punch will be the simplest and most secure though.
Furthermore, for all the readers, I went to my dog tag web page and it had all the old dog tags I had ordered, so if you order mnemonics that way, they will be stored on some vendor’s web site forever. I still think I could go to the pet stores and use their engraving robot. They would not have my address or name. I could do 12 of the 24 at PetCo and the other 12 at PetSmart.
Any big flaws in that theory. Way cheaper than cryptosteel.
If you search “Letter Punch Kit” or “Letter Stamp” on Amazon, you will find some $20 options. Search for “blank dog tags” and you are in business.(another $20 for 100 blanks).
I have a lot of old yearly rabies tags and dog license tags I have saved, they are aluminum and I might use the backs of those to stamp in my mnemonics.
You can also find a fireproof/waterproof bag “15”x11″ Fireproof Safe Waterproof bag with Flannel Material, Protect hand No More Itching, Withstand Over 1000°F in home and office Protect cash money stamp letter document and Valuable things”. Maybe as a secondary storage for a paper copy.
I think I’d rather be able to destroy it if I needed to. It’s better to have multiple copies that are destroyable, than a single copy that is indestructible.
Were back to using punch cards for data storage!
I got this with my Trezor. It was difficult to open initially, but once I figured out a trick of opening it, it is pretty easy. I recommend first pulling it open a little like a book, before rotating it open like a fan.
I am a bit disappointed that each seed word is only allocated 4 letters. 5 or 6 would have been better for legibility when you are forced to contract a long seed word. The process of inserting the character tiles into the Cryptosteel is a bit tedious. The letters often get stuck sideways while inserting it. Tip: Use a small flat head screw driver for inserting the tiles and sliding them across the groove.
On a positive note, it has holes on one end that will allow you to put on a pad lock and prevent it from being easily opened. I say easily, because like Mr. Robot says, lock picking is every hacker’s favorite sport.
Overall I quite like it. It’s durable, practical and it’s function is not obvious by just looking at it. If anything, to someone unfamiliar, it looks like an overly heavy luggage tag.