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Researcher Has Bitcoin Stolen off His Back in a Public Experiment

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:45 PM
Lester Coleman
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:45 PM

How vulnerable is bitcoin to physical theft? It’s a question many bitcoiners don’t ask a lot since it’s hard to imagine how someone could steal a non-physical currency. But if account information is physically visible, cryptocurrency theft is a real possibility, according to a recent test by Tal Newhart, a Chicago-based business strategy and recruitment specialist who has been involved with bitcoin since 2011, according to PRNewswire .

Newhart decided to test what would happen if bitcoin account information was left out in the open physically after one of his clients, the CEO of a financial services company, was robbed of bitcoin after leaving account information in his car while having it valet parked.

Test: A Tale Of Two T-Shirts

Newhart wondered whether or not his client’s loss was a rare occurrence, so he devised a test.

he and an associate wore T-shirts that bore a large QR code. One T-shirt carried the words, “Bitcoin Research. Please Donate! Ask Me Why!” After wearing this shirt in Chicago and the suburbs for a few days, the shirt brought in $65 in bitcoin donations.

The other T-shirt carried a new QR code and the word “SHA-256,” which refers to the encryption algorithm for bitcoin accounts. Persons familiar with cryptocurrency could scan the shirt with a phone and get the private key to the account to gain access to the funds. Newhart wore the shirt in downtown Chicago during lunch hour, and in less than five minutes, he received a text notification that $68 had been withdrawn from the account.

Test Reveals Both Good And Bad Traits

The first part of the experiment indicated people familiar with bitcoin can be generous, Newhart said, while the second part proved they can be thieves, and can be lurking about.

The moral of the story is to keep bitcoin passwords secure.

Newhart learned that not all bitcoin thieves are brainy Russian nerds. Some can be dressed in Armani suits.

Images from PR Newswire.