CRYPTOTAG Review: Is This Badass Backup Wallet Worth It?
A Cryptographer, engineer, designer, and metalworker walk into a Norwegian death metal concert…and comes CRYPTOTAG. Or at least, that’s how we like to imagine it.
CRYPTOTAG is a cryptocurrency security company based in Amsterdam that makes titanium plates that function as permanent storage for backup phrases linked to hardware cryptocurrency wallets such as Ledger, Trezor, and KeepKey.
Each package comes with two 24-line “virtually indestructible” titanium slabs, a set of letter-imprinted metal pins, a hammering platform, and of course, a 2-pound metal hammer.
How CRYPTOTAG Works
CRYPTOTAG is meant to protect your back-up keys and is not a cryptocurrency wallet per se. To actually store your cryptocurrency securely, you’ll need a hardware wallet such as a Ledger or Trezor. Once you’ve configured your hardware wallet, it will give you a backup phrase consisting of 12 to 24 words (bear, cats, shirt, coin, etc.) Most cryptocurrency wallets use a standard called BIP39, a protocol that uses three to eight letter backup words. The first four-letter combos are enough to recover the full word. Each CRYPTOTAG is enough for 2x Ledger Nano S/X, 2x Trezor, up to 4x KeepKey, or any other BIP39-based hardware wallets.
Most wallets come with a sheet of paper or cardboard meant for the transcription, but this paper is still vulnerable to the elements. CRYPTOTAG wants you to hammer your words into metal so that users can still read their backup keys for years to come.
CRYPTOTAG emerged out of Founder Adrijan Scekic’s curiosity with the fundamentals of money in lieu of the 2008 financial crisis. “I found out I knew very little about something that is so important in our daily lives,” comments Adrijan. “After years of self-study, I found that the current monetary system is centralized and unjust. I believe that this system will not last long.”
“When I came into contact with Bitcoin in the first time in 2011, anew world opened up for me. A few years later I started mining and eventually started actively investing in various cryptocurrency projects. Those who control our money are in power. Centralization leads to abuse of power, and I want to change this. I devote my time, recourses and energy into projects that go against the status quo and are an alternative to the current monetary system.”
- Seems to be fairly effective as a way to store your backup phrases. A little overkill, some might say, but then again no one wants to be that person who tragically lost a fortune due to negligence or fire. The CRYPTOTAG testing facility is a portion of the site dedicated to the team trying to burn, shoot, and destroy the plates…for science.
- Additional layer of insurance. A fire-proof product beats one that isn’t. Readers who are heavily inclined towards faultless security will find solace in any extra protection. There is a piece of mind that comes from knowing that your cryptocurrency is safe even if your house, safe, bank, mattress, and for some of our shitcoin investor readers, cardboard box under a bridge burn down offers nice insurance.
- Presentation of the product. The CRYPTOTAG package is very well put together for a product in the space. The company seems to embrace the over-the-top concept of protecting your digital assets in titanium with a 2-pound hammer, and the packaging adds more novelty value. The box comes with everything listed above, as well as some earplugs and branded matches.
- Hammer is probably a decent weapon to use to defend yourself and your cryptocurrency if it came down to it. A rare luxury that this kit offers that many other cryptocurrency products don’t is that it offers an affirmative answer to the question of “can I use this as a weapon to protect myself?” Sure, it likely will never come down to it, but in a life or death situation, I’d rather have a CRYPTOTAG hammer in my hand instead of a puny Ledger Nano S (sorry, Ledger team).
- A paper wallet can do the same job for free. €169.99 (~$194) per starter pack is a fairly hefty sum for a security product that only secures your backup phrases. With a Ledger or Trezor, the whole shebang will run you close to $300. That being said, paper wallets are extremely easy to lose, burn, or otherwise destroy, which the CRYPTOTAG protects from the latter two plagues. Keep in mind that if you lose a hardware wallet, you can still recover your cryptocurrency via your backup keys. But if you lose your backup keys AND hardware wallet, your cryptocurrency is as good as gone.
- Security for the security. A detractor of hardware wallets (and their backup key derivative products) will point out that the devices only protect from online hackers, and the physical product still needs to be kept secure. So, sure, you may be able to protect your cryptocurrency if your Ledger or Trezor gets stolen, but if your titanium CRYPTOTAG gets taken, hackers could still find a way to steal your funds. Keeping the physical product secure falls on the user and not on the company. Founder Adrijan suggests using an extra passphrase and more than one copy of the CRYPTOTAG. So in case someone gets access, they cannot move the funds without the extra passphrase and you always have an extra copy of the backup.
- Possibly expensive whoopsies. If you hammer in the wrong letter by accident, your mistake looks to be permanent and you’ll likely need a new titanium plate (assuming you need to max out both sides) for €99. “If you still make a mistake there are two options,” notes Adrijan. ”You can stamp over the wrong letter a couple of times. This way the new letter will be stamped so deep that it is clear that the deep letter is the right one. The rest of the letters from the word should also help you guess the right letter.”
Does CRYPTOTAG work? If you enter your backup phrases correctly and keep the metal slabs in a secure location, yes. Since there isn’t actually any electronic hardware, everything is pretty straightforward. While there are many steel and metal competitors on the market doing the same thing, CRYPTOTAG has positioned itself to be the most badass and one of the more cost-efficient choices due to its ability to store more words than competitors. This will likely win it some novelty points with customers that want to add another layer of security in brute style.
Is CRYPTOTAG worth it? That depends on your security and risk preferences. If you’re one of those rare investor savants that keeps a stack of paper wallets worth millions in a book, it’s worth upgrading to something more durable. If you’re an average cryptocurrency investor, having a backup protector like CRYPTOTAG is a good additional layer to your security arsenal. If you have a few hundred dollars in cryptocurrency, you might be better off waiting to shell out ~$200 for this product until you’ve accumulated enough cryptocurrency worth protecting.
“Our competitors don’t do the same thing as us,” notes Adrijan. “Most of them just sell metal. We chose a stamping method that is proven to work best (also by Jameson Lopp) and built a full working system around it. That’s something totally different than cutting two plates of metal and putting them in a plastic bag. We also use premium Titanium and test our product extensively.”
The best way to use CRYPTOTAG is to combine it with several cryptocurrency protection solutions. Of course, you’ll need a Ledger, Trezor, or other hardware wallet to actually store your cryptocurrency so that you can make use of CRYPTOTAG. But when you do, avoid bundling your backup phrases and your wallets in the same location so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
We asked CRYPTOTAG Founder, what’s next in the CRYPTOTAG lineup? Ninja stars?
“We’re more thinking about even bigger hammers and giant lasers,” Adrijan laughs. “No, we are actually looking at other parts of the security spectrum. We want to enable people around the world to be their own bank with a variety of products and services. We want to become a leading trusted cryptocurrency security company. In our eyes, this includes products, services, and education. So, the next year we will be expanding in those fields.”
“Our customers count on us to be there when all the other layers of security, like hardware and software layers, fail. We are the last line of defense, so we take our customers’ legacy very serious. Some people might think we go overboard sometimes, but we want the best and tested products for our customers. We don’t cut corners. People still don’t know how important it is to be their own bank. And how fragile their private keys are. That’s why we go so far to protect those keys. It is the most important information there is.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex is the Editor-in-Chief of CoinCentral. Alex also advises blockchain startups, enterprise organizations, and ICOs on content strategy, marketing, and business development. He also regrets not buying more Bitcoin back in 2012, just like you.