When it comes to Bitcoin wallets, online wallets tend to be the easiest ones to get. However, they also tend to be the least secure ones as your private keys are stored in the servers of someone else. If you want more security, you can go for software wallets that store the keys on your computer. Want even more security? Then you might’ve heard about hardware wallets (i.e. Ledger, Trezor etc).
But what if you could store your Bitcoins right under your skin? Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Well, the new technology of Subdermal Microchip Wallets allows you to achieve just that, and people are starting to adopt it for best security of their private wallet keys.
The method was popularized by Dutchman Martijn Wismeijer, the boss of a Bitcoin ATM company called General Bytes. It requires a small NFC chip to be surgically implanted under the skin, which is then used to store the private keys. The size of chip occupies no more space than the space of a small rice gain, and according to Wismeijer the implant process involves little-to-no pain (less painful than an IV drip injection according to him). Every chip can store up to 888 bytes of data, which is enough for storing 26 private Bitcoin keys. Wismeijer got his chips implanted into each one of his hands way back in 2014.
The keys stored inside the chip are accessed by a smartphone app. Of course, this would require the smartphone to support NFC for scanning the chips. The data of chips can also be altered from the smartphone app itself, so you can change your keys without changing the chip. And to ensure that not everyone can steal your Bitcoins simply by scanning your hands, the keys are stored in encrypted format. The only way to decrypt them is through the app in your smartphone.
Wismeijer chose this drastic method of securing his Bitcoins after losing as much as 80% of his Bitcoins to thefts, exchange hacks and and other similar problems. Speaking about the method he told IBTimes in an interview:
“I can safely say most of the bitcoin, more than 80 percent, I have lost due to hacks, thefts, exchanges gone bad and other problems. If I would’ve had the chip in 2010, I’d probably be a rich man by now.”
However, at the same time he was also intrigued about the idea of scanning his hands to make a payment:
“I did it because I wanted to experiment with strong bitcoins using subdermal implants because that’s what I thought would be the Holy Grail of contactless payments.”
After Wismeijer’s method became popular through the news coverage, many of his company’s employees also got the chips implanted under their skins. Wismeijer says that he knows at least 50 people within Prague area alone who’re using the chips. The method is also approved by FDA, so hopefully it doesn’t cause any harm to the skin where it’s implanted.
However, at the same time we can also not say that this method completely risk free. That is because despite FDA approval studies have emerged showing a link between NFC chips and cancer. The chips are made of glass, so that thing also needs to be taken into account before getting them implanted under the skin. But for now people are adopting them as Bitcoin security has become a major issue in the recent days.