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New Technology Stores Crypto Private Keys in DNA

A biotechnology firm called Carverr is using an innovative new method to store cryptocurrency private keys in synthetic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) at the cost of USD 1,000.

Bitcoin and other crypto private keys give complete control of a wallet to whoever holds them, and properly storing and securing a private key is essential to maintain control of funds. If a private key is lost then the crypto is completely unrecoverable. Customers who sign up for Carverr will receive five vials containing a DNA sequence corresponding to their private key.

DNA is probably the oldest form of memory storage in the world. It stores the entire genome of all living organisms. Scientists can create synthetic DNA and store information in it, since it fundamentally stores info with four nucleotides, A, C, G, and T. Memory on a computer is stored in binary, 0 and 1, so scientists give each nucleotide a corresponding binary value. The private key is broken down into binary, and then transposed into DNA format.

This provides an extra layer of security since even if someone steals the vial containing the private key, that person would have to know the algorithm Carverr is using to decode the sequence. Also, DNA will be around forever and will always use the same four nucleotides, unlike digital data which can drastically change long term. A standard hard drive used to store data might become unreadable in the future due to technological paradigm shifts. Additionally, for added security, a user of this service can send the encrypted private key to Carverr instead of the readable private key.

Storing data in synthetic DNA has tremendous potential, since each gram, the size of a jelly bean, can store 215 petabytes of data. A petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. This means that all the data in human history can easily be stored in a single vial.

A caveat to this method is DNA can break down from sunlight, heat, and bacterial contamination so it must be tightly sealed and stored in a dark freezer. Private keys only use a tiny amount of data, probably less than 1 kilobyte, so the DNA equivalent would be microscopic and extremely fragile.


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