Air-gapped cryptocurrency wallets are boosting cryptocurrency investors' cold storage options. Continue reading to discover about air-gapped crypto wallets, how they function, and which solutions are currently available.
What Are Air-Gapped Crypto Wallets?
An air-gapped cryptocurrency wallet is one that is not connected to any wireless network, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC devices. Additionally, fully air-gapped wallets do not support USB drives.
These wallets are named after the cybersecurity phrase "Air-gapped," which refers to the total isolation of a device or network from others. Because they do not communicate with other networks or devices, they are not vulnerable to hacking, malware, or phishing assaults.
How Do Air-Gapped Wallets Work?
A typical air-gapped crypto wallet transaction follows the steps below:
- If you want to buy Bitcoin (BTC), you must use a Bitcoin wallet to create a Partially Signed Bitcoin Transaction (PSBT).
- The PSBT will then be exported to your air-gapped wallet (via a Micro SD card or by scanning a QR code).
- The transaction is then signed using the private keys of your air-gapped wallet.
- The transaction is then exported back into your original Bitcoin wallet (either by scanning a QR code or inserting the Micro SD card into the initial wallet).
- Finally, after validating the transaction on the original wallet, you will broadcast the transaction to the blockchain.
Types Of Crypto Air-Gapped Wallets
There are three types of air-gapped crypto wallets.
- Air-gapped hardware wallets: Air-gapped hardware wallets are devices designed exclusively for storing your private keys offline. They contain digital displays and buttons that allow you to see and choose between different functions. Coldcard Wallet, Ellipal Titan, and NGRAVE ZERO are among the examples.
- Air-gapped computer wallets: You can also use a personal computer as an air-gap wallet. That would necessitate unplugging it from the internet and all wireless connections. You can connect your PSBT to these PCs via USB or SD card interfaces. Similarly, you can transport signed transactions out of them using the same medium for blockchain verification.
- Air-gapped smartphone wallets: Finally, you may use your Android and iOS devices for the same reason. You can do so by factory resetting your gadget to function without an internet connection. Then, to use it, you'd install air-gapped wallet software, often via a Micro SD card.
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Air-Gapped Wallets
Now that you understand what air-gapped crypto wallets are and how they work, let's look at some of their advantages and disadvantages.
Here are a few advantages of using air-gapped wallets:
Full Asset Management
Users have complete control over their digital assets while using air-gapped wallets. Unlike hot or multi-sig wallets, air-gapped wallet owners control and manage their own private keys. This provides them more autonomy, which is compatible with the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies.
Ownership of private keys affords owners the privacy that many in the crypto space desire. Their self-custody function eliminates the requirement for customers to undertake KYC checks, allowing them to conceal their personal information.
Additionally, they provide superior security when compared to non-air-gapped wallets. This is due to their disconnect from the internet and other external gadgets. This barrier helps to keep hackers, phishers, and malware attackers at bay.
Despite its benefits, air-gapped wallets have certain disadvantages, which include:
They Aren't Foolproof
One of the biggest disadvantages of air gap wallets is that they are not failsafe. To complete a transaction, consumers must connect to an internet platform at some point, either through SD cards or QR codes. That small window of internet access can expose kids to the very vectors they claim to protect against.
Difficult To Set Up
Moreover, configuring smartphone and computer air gap wallets necessitates technological expertise. This is a disadvantage for individuals who do not have the talent.
The Danger Of Losing Private Keys
Owners are also fully responsible for their private keys. As a result, they may be vulnerable if they lose their keys or are subjected to unwanted access.
Differences Between Air-Gapped and Hardware Wallets
Air-gapped wallets are a sort of hardware wallet, although they differ in important ways.
Connection To The Internet
A wallet that is air-gapped is never connected to the Internet. As previously stated, air-gapped wallets conduct transactions by ensuring that the private keys are always offline.
A hardware wallet, like an online wallet, maintains keys offline but often connects to an Internet-connected device to sign transactions. The private keys are never meant to leave the hardware wallet, yet during the transaction signing procedure, the hardware wallet connects to an online device.
Air-gapped wallets may necessitate extra steps to complete a transaction, whereas hardware wallets typically provide a more straightforward method for signing transactions because they are meant to link directly with an online device.
However, when used appropriately, hardware wallets can still provide a high level of security because they are designed to keep private keys segregated even when the device is connected.
Both air-gapped wallets and hardware wallets provide a high level of security by keeping private keys offline, with air-gapped wallets going the further mile by keeping private keys separate from Internet-connected devices.
Are Air-Gapped Wallets Safe?
Air-gap wallets are undoubtedly the most secure crypto storing method. However, you must be an expert Bitcoin user who understands how to handle partially signed transactions and securely store private keys. As a result, they are not the greatest choice for newbies looking for a simple crypto storage solution.
Air-gapped wallets represent one of the most secure ways to protect your cryptocurrencies from online threats. While they may be less convenient for everyday transactions, they are the go-to choice for individuals and institutions looking to safeguard significant amounts of digital assets. As the crypto ecosystem continues to mature, the need for robust security measures like air-gapped wallets becomes increasingly apparent. If you value the security of your crypto holdings, this technology is certainly worth exploring further.
Q. Is an Air-Gapped Wallet safe?
A. Air-gapped wallets are generally considered safe as they operate offline, minimizing exposure to online threats. They store private keys on a device not connected to the internet, reducing the risk of hacking. However, physical security is crucial, as malware can compromise the device if connected. Regular updates and cautious handling are necessary to maintain security.
Q. Why use Air-gapped?
A. Air-gapped is a security-focused approach that isolates a device from the internet, reducing the risk of online hacking. It enhances protection by allowing transactions to be signed offline, preventing the exposure of private keys. This method is particularly beneficial for managing crypto assets, ensuring secure transactions, and safeguarding sensitive information from potential cyber threats.
Q. What are the disadvantages of air gaps?
A. Air-gapped security involves physically isolating a computer or network from external connections to enhance security. However, it has limitations, including limited functionality and accessibility, as data transfer is cumbersome. Updates and maintenance may be challenging, and it doesn't protect against internal threats. Additionally, it's not entirely foolproof as determined attackers may still find ways to breach the air gap, such as through malicious insiders or physical breaches.
Q. Can air-gapped systems be hacked?
A. Air-gapped systems are generally more secure than connected ones since they are physically isolated from networks. However, they can still be vulnerable to attacks if there are human errors or malware transfer via physical media. In some cases, sophisticated attackers with physical access to the system may attempt to breach its security. While rare, it's essential to maintain strict physical security practices to minimize the risk of hacking air-gapped systems.