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Alan Reiner
Emerging Payments

Armory Piles on Security for Bitcoin's Wealthy Early Adopters

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The Armory Bitcoin Wallet, a security and payments application, has changed its technology to require less computer memory – but it's still a product for power users

The company serves people who have a high value of bitcoins, such as early adopters who bought or mined bitcoins when they were cheap and saw their value skyrocket over the past year. Bitcoin is a digital currency designed for fast, near-anonymous transactions, and its high value makes it an appealing target for theft.

"Armory is not for the beginning user," says Alan Reiner, CEO of Armory Technologies. "A lot of people got in Bitcoin early and have a ten-fold increase in the value of the currency, so they're concerned about securing and are willing to make sacrifices."

The company's wallet requires "exhaustive" random access memory (RAM), a computer component that determines the speed at which the machine can access data. High-end business or gaming computers typically have more RAM than off-the-shelf consumer PCs, so the average person may not have the right amount of memory to quickly run a demanding program such as the Armory wallet.

Previously, Armory required six gigabytes of RAM to launch. The new version trims that to one gigabyte for its initial setup, and just 200 megabytes for ongoing operation.

"The large amount of RAM is a large inconvenience for the user. And given the robustness of some of transactions or services, when you are doing a lot of processing, it could take time," Reiner says.

The new version of Amory's wallet streamlines the application, making it smaller and more efficient so that the user will not require top-of-the-line hardware. "Once the Bitcoin wallet is established it doesn't hog or kill customers in terms of RAM," Reiner says.

Other improvements include a single-sheet backup that can be made when the wallet is created—people don't have to create a backup for each payment transaction record or transfer. This backup can be used to restore a wallet on a failed hard drive, or has become inaccessible for another reason. It can also be used by the owner's family in the case of death or incapacitation.

"People will like this because they are bad at backups," Reiner says.

Armory Technologies' next project is to develop multi-signature transactions and hardware wallets. Multiple signature authorities require several people to authorize each payment, which makes the Bitcoin wallet usable by more complex entities such as corporations.

Hardware wallets hold private keys—or a form of digital identity—without exposing the keys to external devices or networks. The security is designed to sequester Bitcoin storage and authentication from the Internet. Without a hardware wallet, a security-minded user might maintain a separate computer just for Bitcoin payments, Reiner says.

"If someone has $100,000 worth of Bitcoin, they're not so comfortable with keeping that money on an Internet-connected computer," he says.

Bitcoin has long been a target of security threats, including theft, hacking, unauthorized access and even exposing personal info.

"There are several types of fraud or attacks that Bitcoin is vulnerable to," says Etay Maor, senior product marketing manager at Trusteer, an online security company. These attacks may involve infecting systems that store bitcoins or using malware to compromise a transaction.

Bitcoin is vulnerable to same kinds of malware used on banks, Maor says.

"The malware that is out there is designed for account takeover and Bitcoin is just another target to add to a long list for the fraudsters," Maor says.

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