Security and anonymity are among the main reasons people want to use bitcoin. Of course, seasoned bitcoin enthusiasts understand that bitcoin isn’t truly an anonymous tool. While users don’t give personal information, addresses act as pseudonyms. If someone were to find out the identity of the person who uses a particular address, every transaction under that address is known. While there are ways to increase user anonymity, such as through using multiple wallets, those new to bitcoin might find themselves overwhelmed with these concepts.
Hong Kong-based BitLox aims to keep bitcoin transactions as anonymous as possible without overwhelming new and seasoned users alike. Their credit card-size products are the world’s only standalone security hardcore wallets. Single-use addresses (as recommended in the original Satoshi whitepaper) and multiple levels of alphanumeric PIN verifications are some of the features of BitLox.
I had the pleasure to reach out to Dana L. Coe, CEO of BitLox, to learn more about their hardcore wallet products. Below are the responses he sent via email:
Carlo: Can you tell us about your background? How did you get involved in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies?
Dana: I come from an engineering and scientific background. I’m from the USA, studied engineering in Germany in the ‘90s, and later worked for an Internet startup in the late ‘90s [and] early ‘00s. I moved to China in 2002 to pursue business opportunities there. [In] late 2012 I was vaguely aware of bitcoin and experimented a bit with it, but only in 2014 did I become truly [interested in] it. I’ve always experimented with computers and systems, and this was a very interesting subject.
Carlo: What gave you the idea to create a hardware bitcoin wallet?
Dana: One of my friends acquired one of the first Trezor wallets to come out, and we thought it was pretty neat, but we wanted some features that they did not have, so we decided to create our own hardware wallet. I have the advantage of living in China – workshop to the world – where I could directly work with fabricators and designers. It was a much more daunting task than we thought, but we saw it out to completion.
Carlo: Can you go over the physical features of the BitLox wallet?
Dana: The BitLox is the same profile as a credit card, but just 4 mm thick. This package contains a Bluetooth Low Energy module, processor, sub-processor for USB, e-paper screen, battery and the keypad circuitry. It’s quite a challenge fitting all of this into such a form factor. The housing itself is metal, in the case of the advanced version, is machined from 6062 aircraft aluminum. The extreme [model] takes it further, in that the case is machined from a solid block of titanium, and the faceplate is also titanium. Using metal as the housing is a serious manufacturing challenge, but the end result is worth it. The wallets can be put in your pocket with no chance of bending or deformation, with the added benefit of being practically impervious to breakage.
Carlo: Can you go over the privacy features of BitLox and how the wallet utilizes Darknet access tools?
Dana: BitLox is designed from the ground up to protect your privacy. No-one can get into the device without the user-set PIN, and each individual wallet is further protected with a PIN. One can even set a PIN that must be entered for each transaction if you want to go that far. When setting up the BitLox, there is no registration process, no identity verification or anything of the sort. BitLox uses HD wallets so that each time you use an address, a new receiving address is generated for you. This is the recommended practice for keeping your transactions private, as one cannot have a predictable address for people to monitor.
The Darknet tools are designed to obfuscate the necessary queries to the blockchain that are needed to compute your wallet balance and compose transactions. By having addresses that are single use (funds in then funds out), plus obscuring the geographical destination of any queries to these addresses, we feel it does a lot to help anonymize user’s transactions.
Carlo: If people are just getting involved with bitcoin, would you recommend this product to them? In other words, how much experience with the bitcoin space do you need to successfully use BitLox?
Dana: Bitcoin on any level can be daunting for a beginner, and it can be scary with online wallets to realize your funds can sometimes be at their mercy. We try to make the user more autonomous from the beginning. We’ve tried to make the design as familiar to people as online banking authorization tokens are. When doing a standard setup of the device, the user chooses a language, gets a device pincode, a wallet pincode, a mnemonic list to write down, and -boom- they are ready. Their first deposit address is displayed on the BitLox, ready to accept funds into their wallet.
Carlo: Can you give us a breakdown of the product line? What’s the difference between BitLox advanced, BitLox Ultimate and BitLox Extreme Privacy Set?
Dana: The Advanced and Ultimate sets are differentiated by the case materials, aircraft aluminum for the Advanced, Titanium for the Extreme. Titanium is known for its extreme corrosion resistance and being as strong as steel while being only slightly heavier than aluminum. The Extreme Privacy Set comes with an extra military-grade USB vault, which we pre-load with Tails OS for the user. The idea is for the user to use the vault to boot their computer, guaranteeing a fresh OS, plus they then use the Darknet tools with the Tails OS. Once they pull the vault out of the machine, it’s as if the session they just had never happened, no traces whatsoever.
Carlo: Can you tell us of any use cases so far where BitLox has been an asset?
Dana: We’ve had numerous people contact us regarding using the BitLox as a long term storage medium for their higher value wallets, even one customer who wanted to prepare funds for his heirs in this manner.
Carlo: How has the bitcoin community reacted to BitLox so far?
Dana: Very well! All of the people I’ve interacted with have commented on how the device itself feels like such a premium product, with the metal case and just the right amount of heft.
Carlo: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dana: This is more about Bitcoin in general (my words): The most amazing thing in all of this is that with but a string of words one may store wealth securely without relying on authority to vouch for it. It is all the magic of the Numbered Swiss Bank Account without the all-too human bankers that can be – and sadly these years have been – heavily pressured into giving up their clients at the whims of the authoritarian State.
First image – Public domain image by Satoshi
BitLox logo, Dana’s photo and BitLox product photo – Via BitLox’s press kit