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Protecting bitcoin with a gun barrel

Adriana Hamacher


RIGA—Keeping one’s bitcoin physically secure was a topic of debate at Latvia’s Baltic Honeybadger, a major Bitcoin conference taking place this weekend.

And, seemingly, no one is better armed against potential thieves, kidnappers and others determined to steal his bitcoin than Jameson Lopp, cypherpunk and CTO at key-security company, Casa

The long-term hodler, who said he owns over 40 firearms, took part in a panel about bitcoin physical security, and is now planning to help others beef up theirs.

“How do you, these days, create something that’s as close as possible to a medieval castle?” Lopp rhetorically said later, to Decrypt

“How do you create moats and walls and portcullises—multiple layers of security—some of which use physical things, others using new technologies, surveillance systems, alarms…” 

Bitcoin holders are, he said, particularly vulnerable because crypto assets’ liquidity means that thieves think they can get a better payoff attacking someone who might have a million dollars in a crypto wallet, versus someone with a billion dollars locked up in hard to move traditional assets. 

Worse, someone with a million dollars worth of crypto is unlikely to be able to afford 24-hour security, making them especially vulnerable, Lopp said, adding that people who trade person-to-person, are most vulnerable: “They’re known to be carrying a lot of money around with them, but well-known entrepreneurs and people on social media are also getting attacked.” 

Lopp is already famous for a twitter post, back in 2017 which shows him firing his AR-15 rifle.  


He explained at the time that the measure was in response to a prank call to the police in October 2017 about an incident at his home in North Carolina. The caller claimed a shooter had killed someone and had taken a hostage, and a SWAT team was dispatched to the house. After the police left, Lopp received a call threatening more of the same if he did not pay a large ransom payment in Bitcoin. 

“The AR-15 is a really popular platform in America, because it’s simple, it’s modular, you can customise a lot of things about it and it’s not that expensive,” he said. 

But not everyone on the panel agreed that firearms were necessary, and they batted around a variety of measures people could employ, such as a so-called “duress wallet,”  and “honeypots” to lure thieves to smaller amounts of bitcoin. 

The most common mistake, everyone agreed, was creating “a single point of failure,” rather than looking at security holistically. 

“I’m never going to own a gun, but a lot of people need to be considering hardware wallets, multisigs, running a node—things that can be complicated, “ Peter McCormack, who hosted the panel, told Decrypt later. He said that education is key to taking people through a “journey of improving their physical security.”  

The panel also warned about being “too creative:” locking yourself out of your Bitcoin wallet is almost as bad as letting thieves in—and far more common.