Please forward this error screen to 198. Attinghausen, Switzerland I’m being driven along the eastern shore of Lake Lucerne when my guide points out our destination. The bunker is in one of those mountains,” says Maxim Kon, gesturing at a fog shrouded peak on bitcoin fog forum opposite shore as he pilots his BMW convertible. It can survive a nuclear blast and an EMP bomb.
Quartz is a digitally native news outlet for the new global economy. I’m being driven along the eastern shore of Lake Lucerne when my guide points out our destination. Maxim Kon, gesturing at a fog shrouded peak on the opposite shore as he pilots his BMW convertible. Kon is taking me to see one of the vaults where Xapo, the company he works for, stores its customers’ bitcoins. It’s no ordinary vault: I’ve been told it’s inside a decommissioned Swiss military bunker dug into a granite mountain.
Its precise location is secret, and access is limited by security measures that would put a Bond villain to shame. Xapo to tour the vault. It’s odd to think of a virtual currency needing physical storage, but just like your most precious photos, even a cryptocurrency needs some kind of material container. It was Casares who gave tech luminaries like Bill Gates and Reid Hoffman their first bitcoins. A bitcoin vault doesn’t store actual bitcoin units.
Technically, what’s being stored are private, cryptographic keys. These keys form a pair with particular, public-facing, keys and provide access to the balance of coins stored on the bitcoin network. Gaining unauthorized access to someone’s private keys is akin to making off with a gold bar. If someone gets hold of your private key, there’s no way to claw the funds back or demand a refund. That’s why a firm like Xapo that stores bitcoin is a juicy target for hackers—and why it requires paranoiac levels of security.
We pull off the highway and onto a single-track road. We’re surrounded by grazing cows and the odd hiker. We are met by Michel Streiff, who works for Deltalis, the company that runs the facility. Deltalis operates the 10,000-square-foot data-center that now inhabits the decommissioned bunker. Inside, walls covered with detailed maps and ancient radio electronics serve as vestiges of its military past.