Q: Is it possible for the FBI to seize anyone's Bitcoin? | Ask Doctor Bitcoin [Free, #14]

The FBI seized a massive amount of Bitcoin this week from Russian ransomware group Darkside, but was cagey about how. The media thinks they found a backdoor. We'll cover the reality in this issue.

Well, hello there, and welcome to another issue of ADB!

This week has been marked by the part two of a lot of stories that were already ongoing: Taproot lock-in, ratification of the Bitcoin bill in El Salvador, resurgence of art NFTs.

One notable exception was some market turbulence seemingly induced by the FBI allowing the public and the press to believe that they somehow had achieved some possible way to crack, hack or otherwise snake people’s private keys and repossess someone’s Bitcoin at will.

As we’ll explore today in the deep dive, this is practically and theoretically impossible to do in any circumstance. In their haste to appear more capable than anyone possibly could be, however, the DoJ and the FBI are creating fear, uncertainty and doubt around Bitcoin for reasons it’s not worth speculating on.

The whole story is fascinating, and is a great object lesson on how the weakest link in cryptocurrency security isn’t the protocol, it’s the end user.


Of course, as always, if you find this stuff interesting and useful, you should forward it on to a friend! They (or you!) can always use this link to get a two week free subscription to try us out!

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Blockchain Bulletin

  • FBI seizes Bitcoin wallets owned by cybercriminals who attacked Colonial Pipeline. Authorities seized some BTC taken by cybercriminals that attacked the Colonial Pipeline by subpoenaing the hackers rented cloud servers, reported Bitcoin Magazine.

  • Amazon seeking to hire blockchain lead with DeFi experience. Showing interest in decentralized finance, Amazon posted an ad on LinkedIn seeking staff with DeFi experience, especially a Blockchain Head of Product, according to a report from CoinDesk.

  • The photo that inspired the Doge meme sold for $4M as an NFT. The photo that inspired it all, the Doge dog, sold for $4 million worth of ETH at an auction according to an article published in CoinTelegraph.

Blockchain Behind the Scenes

  • Locked in: Taproot upgrade gets 90% mandate from Bitcoin nodes. It’s official, Taproot has been signaled by over 90% of Bitcoin nodes and now support for its activation can begin across the network.

  • CEO Jack Dorsey: Bitcoin Lightning Network on Twitter ‘Only a matter of time’. The CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, signaled in a tweet that he sees the Lightning Network coming to Twitter, or one of its decentralized projects, as only a matter of time.

  • Solana Labs raises $314M in new funding to develop faster blockchain tech. Blockchain startup Solana Labs and Ethereum competitor raised $314 million in a token sale funding round as it continues to build its high-performance, scalable blockchain network.

Blockchain Deep Dive: Is it possible for anyone to crack a Bitcoin wallet?

  • Succinctly: No.

  • You’re more likely to win the powerball nine times in a row than to successfully guess a Bitcoin private key.

  • Back to basics: Hashing is like the PIN on your debit card. The bank stores not your pin, but a hash of your PIN. The only way to guess it is to use brute force and work through the 10,000 possible combinations.

  • A single bitcoin private key would require roughly 115.792 quattuorvigintillion combinations.

  • Written out as a regular number, that’s this many: 115,792,089,237,316,195,423,570,985,008,687,907,853,269,984,665,640,564,039,457,584,007,913,129,639,936

  • The Japanese Fugaku supercomputer is a 442 petaflop machine, the fastest computer in the world. It would take roughly six times the current age of the universe to successfully perform this attack on Bitcoin.

  • Quantum Computing is an age-old threat to cryptography in general. Bitcoin isn’t impervious.

  • Scientists in 2017 put out a study graphing the growth of Bitcoin’s security model and the rate of growth in QC attack power. According to their projections, those two lines won’t intersect until far after 2040.

  • Very strong incentives exist for the Bitcoin core developer team to strengthen the algorithm at that time (and strong incentives exist for miners to adopt it quickly).