[ DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: The author's history with and favor towards John McAfee, as well as his membership on the McAfee Crypto Team, is well-documented public information and will not be retold here. This review was neither solicited or paid for by John McAfee or Bitfi. The author ordered the device like anyone else and paid for it with his own money. As with all things, do your research and make your own determination. ]
When John McAfee announced the “unhackable” Bitfi hardware wallet, many people were understandably skeptical. After all, McAfee himself is on record many times stating his belief that no computerized device is unhackable. An apparent contradiction, and one that some critics were quick to point out. And yet, both statements are true. Understanding why is the key to comprehending the true power and value of the Bitfi Wallet.
SECURITY THROUGH SIMPLICITY
Computer hacking is a subject that is greatly misunderstood because often too much focus is put on the technology involved. McAfee, though an accomplished technologist, has always been a human being before all else. His perspective on technology is colored by this reality, and it has allowed him to see the true nature of many a beast where others hard fail. It is a simple truth that once information is stored on a device, someone somewhere will find a way to get it out. It may take time, but it will ultimately prove possible. Our own imperfections as humans touch everything we do, including the technology we're so proud and fond of.
Fortunately for us, the answer to the riddle is equally as simple. Don’t store any information that can compromise your position. This does not mean to live without computers. Instead, what it means is that we must find a way to accomplish what we set out to do while concealing critical pieces of information from the computers we are using to do it. Tell computers no secrets, and no secrets can be hacked. This is what the Bitfi does, and why both of McAfee’s statements can be reconciled. The Bitfi is not hackable because there is nothing on it to hack.
In fact, to call Bitfi a wallet is not 100% accurate, though it is necessary due to the way people think. Bitfi is actually a convenience device, allowing ordinary people whose time is valuable to take advantage of the most secure scheme we have for storing cryptocurrency: a brain wallet. Bitfi offers the full security of this scheme while adding many of the conveniences of having a live wallet. It is actually an authentication device that uses a powerful processor to translate something your brain can store, like a sentence, into the private key used to verify address ownership. The key is never stored, written down, or even seen, and therefore cannot be stolen.
Because the magic sentence exists only in your brain, no one else can use the freely published formula to calculate the private key. One sentence protects unlimited cryptocurrency wallets across any supported cryptocurrency, and as long as you never write your sentence down or tell anyone else, you can be sure that your coins are safe. If you lose your Bitfi, not only is it useless to the person that finds it, but you still have access to all of your coins. You could order another Bitfi, or use the formula provided to manually calculate your private keys using your sentence.
SMOOTH SAILING: ORDERING AND UNBOXING
Ordering the Bitfi wallet was a painless and unintrusive process. I was able to pay using Bitcoin, and did not even need to give them my name – just a shipping address. As someone that believes that simply wanting to buy something does not entitle others to know who I am, I appreciate vendors that do not insist that I provide my identity. Here is the money in full, and an address. Just ship the damned thing. Those stuck using government scrip can still order the Bitfi using any major credit or debit card. But to do this you’ll have to give your name, of course.
Post-sale communication was also excellent, with regular updates sent letting me know what to expect. In my case, the device shipped the next day and arrived 3 days later without incident. It arrived in sturdy and attractive packaging that was pleasing to the eye and easy enough to unpackage. Included in the box are the Bitfi device and case, USB charger, quick start guide and warranty card.
The Bitfi itself is sturdy and well constructed, with a full color touch screen. This is crucial for making the device useful for data entry, avoiding the need to use a potentially insecure computer for authentication. One of the major turnoffs for other hardware wallets I’ve seen is the 1986 Swatch screen the existing players seem to favor. This is 2018, can I have a color screen please? Finally someone gets it.
The wallet shipped with a charge, so I was able to start using it right away. Entering the WIFI information was painless using the touch screen, though if you have large fingers you may need a stylus. WIFI worked immediately, and after that, registering the device was easy and straightforward. Within 10 minutes of unboxing my Bitfi I was already loading cryptocurrency.
The user interface is simple and informative, and has a nice summary page displaying totals for all of your stored assets. It is immediately clear what I need to do to receive and send using the software, and the sensible UI makes the software intuitive to navigate. I can’t think of much else I’d want in a software client that Bitfi doesn’t offer out of the box. Finally we can enjoy world-class security without sacrificing usability. Before Bitfi you could enjoy the first, but only at the expense of the second.
EXCITED FOR THE FUTURE
Despite being pleased, I do have a small wish list for future development, along with one gripe. One thing I would definitely like to see is an export function for my addresses, as these are needed should I ever have to compute my private keys manually. Anyone using this device should keep a separate manifest of all of their addresses, so I think more should be done to encourage and facilitate this in the interface.
I’m also looking forward to increased coin support. Out of the box, Bitfi offers first-class support for a range of cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin. However, after loading my Bitfi I still have coins that are not supported. Bitfi has promised to expand coin support over time, and the starting roster does include many popular coins and tokens. But this is one subject where more is always better.
On the subject of coin support, there is one inexcusable blunder committed by some cur that must have lied their way onto the Bitfi team, or stole a shirt and sneaked into the building. This is of course the blatant lack of support for Dogecoin. How any human being alive could believe it acceptable to omit support for this critical cryptocurrency escapes my imagination. In a world ruled by justice, the offending person would be ripped from his or her chair in broad daylight and fed to a pack of ravenous, wild Shiba Inu dogs. In our world, imperfect as it is, we instead must wait for Bitfi to correct this oversight and add support in the future.
Despite this shortcoming, which I have no doubt is a top priority for the Bitfi team, this device exceeds my expectations across every meaningful metric. The Bitfi Wallet is an elegant synthesis of simplicity of concept, tremendous utility and zero dependence on the vendor. By combining the security of brain storage with the usability benefits of live storage, Bitfi transcends the concept of a wallet that must be guarded while at the same time liberating the user from complexity.
It is rare that I have the opportunity to purchase something that I had been hoping for before hearing about it. Prior to the Bitfi, all of the hardware wallets I looked at seemed to introduce new problems of their own, and none inspired enough confidence to fuel a purchase. I didn’t even realize that what I was hoping for was actually a convenience device that allowed brain wallets to be used like live storage, without compromising security. And this is Bitfi.
So it is with a happy heart that I give my unrestrained endorsement to Bitfi, and recommend that anyone handling significant quantities of cryptocurrency purchase one right away. In fact, for the first time, we have a product that qualifies for one of the highest honors possible at LoggiaOnFire Magazine: The Dan E. Sickles Seal of Approval. No other product I have used has merited this distinction, and I have little hope of encountering another in my lifetime. If this does not convince you, dear reader, there is nothing more I can say that will help.