You shouldn’t trust anyone with your bitcoins, and Case is well aware of that. Over the past few years, Mt.Gox, Bitstamp and countless other centralized services have suffered serious security breaches. But Case is about to put an end to all this, as this startup has built one of the most secure hardware bitcoin wallets in the world. The startup is launching onstage today at Disrupt NY.
“There’s no easy and secure way to use bitcoin. You’re either getting security, or you’re getting ease of use,” co-founder and CEO Melanie Shapiro told me. Case wants to provide both — security and ease of use.
Case is a small credit card-shaped device with a tiny screen, a fingerprint sensor, a camera, a built-in GSM chip and a few buttons. Any time you want to make a bitcoin transaction, you press the bitcoin button, scan the QR code with the camera, swipe your finger and you’re done. Everything happens on the device; you don’t have to log in with a complicated password or use a smartphone app. You can even buy and sell bitcoins from this device.
Behind the scenes, Case provides a highly secured multi-signature wallet. You need two signatures to make a transaction. When you first start your Case device, you generate a private key on the device itself, and this key will stay on your device forever. “We don’t generate that private key — the device doesn’t come pre-populated with a private key,” Shapiro said.
Case also stores a key in its encrypted online database. Transactions are only signed by the server if the fingerprint scan matches your biometric data. The small device communicates with these servers using its built-in GSM chip. Case works like the Kindle with 3G connectivity, meaning that you can use the device in more than a hundred countries around the world without having to pay for a subscription.
But what if you lose your Case wallet? As you need two signatures to send bitcoins using Case, you won’t be able to recover your bitcoins. But fortunately the startup has a backup plan. It also stores a third key in an offline vault. You can retrieve this key after proving your identity to the company.
Case will cost $199 and will ship this summer after more than a year of hard work. The company is only starting to take pre-orders now. “We’ve seen a lot of hardware flops,” Shapiro said. “We wanted to be able to build the entire thing — the software, the firmware, the hardware. We are at that point now where we feel confident accepting pre-orders.”