Bitcoin Users are Saving Cryptocurrency Passwords and Storing Them in DNA
You Can Use Your DNA to Secure Your Bitcoin Fortune
In the future, we may be able to use our DNA as a bank account – at least, that’s the idea proposed by a startup called Carverr.
Carverr will hide your cryptocurrency password inside a micro tube of DNA. Described as “a unique and extreme insurance policy” by CNET, Carverr’s system will use synthetic DNA to store data.
We’ve been able to store data within DNA for several years. In fact, some believe that synthetic DNA will be the hard drives of the future. As far as we can tell, however, Carverr is the first to use DNA storage specifically for cryptocurrency.
Scientists can store anything in DNA, including Word documents, animated GIFs, or even an entire operating system – so it’s no surprise DNA can also effectively store crypto passwords.
In an interview with CNET, Carverr CEO and co-founder Vishaal Bhuyan admits that the concept is wild, but he sees the system as just a different type of encryption tool. DNA lasts longer than a hard drive and is arguably more secure. Bhuyan also claims that 28 customers have signed up for the service so far and paid the $1,000 entry fee.
Carverr is also in talks to expand the service with banks and large cryptocurrency storage companies. In the future, a crypto cold storage facility might consist of a wall of test tubes – not a rack of hard drives.
How Does Carverr Save Data In DNA?
Converting a data file into DNA is surprisingly easy. Data, when broken down into a basic binary form, is just a bunch of zeroes and ones. DNA works in a similar way: DNA’s data is made up of four letters, including A, T, C, and G. These are the abbreviations for the nucleotides making up the rungs of the DNA ladder.
Translating binary to the language of DNA requires a conversion system. With this conversion system, we can represent complex binary code using the letters found in ordinary DNA.
By manipulating DNA data – like by creating synthetic DNA – we can effectively store any binary information within that DNA.
Here’s how CNET explains how a sample conversion system could work:
“To translate binary to the language of DNA, you need to have a conversion system. Let's say A = 00, T=01, C=10, and G=11. In this example, the string 11000101001000 would translate to GATTACA.”
Today, labs can print DNA chemicals together in any desired order. This synthetic DNA can represent any string of code.
Once your private key has been stored in DNA, that DNA sits at the bottom of a plastic microtube. The DNA is suspended in a drop of liquid until it’s ready to be read by a lab-sequencing machine. A lab can sequence the genetic code of the DNA, then translate the information back into ones and zeroes using the conversion system.
The other advantage is that a hacker can’t access your private key. Yes, someone could steal the vial containing your encoded DNA. However, they would still need to know the conversion system – the way to convert the A, T, C, and Gs into usable ones and zeroes.
Carverr adds another layer of security to the transaction: all business between the company and clients is completed over ProtonMail, which offers end-to-end email encryption.
Why Would You Store a Crypto Password in DNA?
We’ve already explained how Carverr’s DNA storage system works. But the next question is: why would anyone store crypto passwords in DNA? What are the advantages?
Carverr’s clients are purportedly the type of people who have a large amount invested in cryptocurrency and need a secure form of long-term storage. They need a backup more secure than a hard drive or hard wallet – something that will likely be outdated or even unreadable over a 20 or 30 year period.
By storing this data in DNA, Carverr can make your password last not just a lifetime – but generations. Labs will always have the technology to read DNA. As long as the DNA remains uncompromised within the plastic tube, and you have access to a lab that can sequence DNA, then you’ll be able to access a crypto fortune.
Carverr isn’t the only company storing data in DNA. They may be the only company dedicated to the crypto community, but other types of data has already been encoded in DNA. In February, for example, Microsoft partnered with researchers at the University of Washington to put 200 megabytes of data into 13 million DNA oligonucleotides. Part of this data included OK Go’s music video for, “This Too Shall Pass.”
Other researchers have encoded short movie clips, $50 gift cards, and other data into DNA. Someone even encoded an entire Linux operating system into DNA.
Right now, accessing this DNA-encoded data isn’t cheap. In a 2017 study, researchers spent $7,000 encoding 2 megabytes of data within DNA, then spent another $2,000 to retrieve that data via sequencing.
Ultimately, encoding your private key within DNA may seem like an extreme step to take. However, if you have a crypto fortune lying around, and you’re looking for an extra layer of security, then DNA sequencing may be the right step to take – especially if you want to protect your funds for generations.