A bitcoin private key is what allows you to access the Bitcoin associated with a particular address. Once you know the private key, you’re able to access all of the money within an account, whether it is yours or not.
Using brute force, can you obtain a Bitcoin private key? It’s possible, but it’s time-consuming and expensive. That’s why it’s cheaper and faster to mine Bitcoin.
It can be done, maybe. It depends on how much time and money you have to accomplish it.
It’s a Guessing Game
First, it’s essential to look at how a Bitcoin private key is established. It’s 256 bits, which means that it’s 256 characters. It’s comprised of 1s and 0s, so it’s possible for someone to guess.
Now, it would require a person to guess all 256 characters correctly in a row. The odds of doing that are beyond winning Power Ball – way beyond. You’d have better luck counting all of the atoms in your bedroom.
Additionally, there’s also the need to guess the Bitcoin address. After all, you need both an address and a private key in order to gain full access.
Even after all of that lucky guessing, you still have to hope that there is some serious money in the account. Otherwise, you’ve done all of that work for nothing. It’s not uncommon for many bitcoin addresses to have a fraction of Bitcoin in them. Considering that there are approximately 2 million nonempty Bitcoin addresses, that means that there are even more that are completely empty.
Will quantum computers help?
When you’re really looking to brute force your way into obtaining a Bitcoin private key, quantum computers aren’t going to be any help to you. The reason for it is simple – it’s simply too much math – and without any real guarantee of it paying off for you.
You have to look at the kind of power that you would need to crack a bitcoin – and while quantum computing has come a long way, you have to look at the real processing power required.
A bitcoin address is RIPEMD-160. So, it’s a 160-bit hash of a 256-bit hash of a public key. If you’re going to break this kind of encryption, you might as well get involved in bitcoin mining.
However, if you still want to argue that it’s possible to brute force a bitcoin, you have to look at the target keyspace. Additionally, you need to find a collision in a 160-bit keyspace – it’s unlikely and time-consuming.
Any 32 bytes has the potential to be a private key – as long as it’s not comprised solely of zeroes. You can run sha256 (a public key) over a passphrase, and it’s capable of brute-forcing your way into a private key – although it’s an insecure approach.
If there’s a bitcoin address created with a poorly chosen passphrase, it’s likely that a person was playing around with the idea. If there is any bitcoin in the address at all, it’s likely not even worth your time to get.
Once you find yourself a Bitcoin address with some money on it, you need an ECDSA public key. Only, not just any key – it has to share the same 160-bit value. This could take you around 2,160 key generations.
You would need to generate 2160 keys to try to get into it. 2160 keys – each with around 32 characters of 1s and 0s. Remember what the chances are of guessing such a thing.
You would need years to be able to generate those kinds of numbers – even with quantum computing. Of course, you could invest in more computers to continue to run the numbers. You could also ask friends to join you (though you’ll have to split your findings with them).
How many computers or friends do you think you’ll need to be able to brute force a Bitcoin private key?
It has been estimated that for a 0.1% probability of collision, you’d need 5.4 x 10^22 addresses in existence.
Is there cause for concern?
There’s the enduring myth that it’s possible to brute force a Bitcoin private key. Should someone be able to do that, they could empty your Bitcoin wallet, leaving you with nothing.
While it is possible if you had 6.3 x 10^24 addresses to increase your probability of a collision (getting both the address and the corresponding key), there aren’t that many addresses out there. You’d be more likely to hit your own address than anyone else’s.
It’s not possible to have the processing power necessary to brute force a private key. For the time that it would take to pull off such a feat, a person would be considerably more profitable by taking the tools for brute-forcing and use it for mining. It not only eliminates the need for dealing in hypotheticals but allows a person to know how much they can earn – and have guaranteed revenue in a shorter period of time.
Even when there is the potential for an attacker to muster enough processing power, there’s the reality of how much they could make. 21 million bitcoins will ever exist. That’s split across countless Bitcoin addresses. There’s only a one in 10^12 possibility of an address having any money. This means that even if the impossible could be done of getting a combo of an address and a private key, there’s still only a one in a trillion chance of finding one with money on it.
Anyone who would even consider brute-forcing a private key would know how hard it would be to accomplish – and therefore, the likelihood of doing such a thing is out of the question. When there’s money to be had simply from Bitcoin mining, it’s the better solution overall.
There’s also the aspect of how much storage it takes for every address – 100 bytes. If you’re going to start storing addresses by the thousands and billions, it would take millions of terabytes to come up with that kind of storage. That’s big money – and that’s even assuming that a person would be able to find that kind of storage anywhere.
So, to recap, brute-forcing a bitcoin requires:
- Massive amounts of storage
- Massive amounts of processing power
- Significant amounts of time
- Pure luck
No one is that lucky, nor is anyone going to invest that amount of time or money into the ability just so that they can have the honour of saying that they brute-forced a Bitcoin private key. And for what? .001 BTC? That $13 USD is hardly worth the kind of effort that would be required.
Work Toward Mining, Not Brutalizing Keys
Now that the idea of brute-forcing private keys has been demystified, it’s time to look at the best way to earn Bitcoin. Bitcoin mining is more accessible than many people realize – especially when investing in the right hardware. There are cost-effective solutions to make it easy for players of all sizes to begin mining.
When you want to acquire digital sovereignty, it’s all a matter of exploring the hardware solutions that will help you reach your goals. At D-Central, we help you get into the Bitcoin mining industry or show you how you can reach the next level. We complete hardware repairs, provide training, and much more.
Whether you’re searching for antminers, replacement chips, or something else, we have a large inventory of spare parts to ensure you get what you need. More importantly, we’ll show you how upgrading your systems can be the best money spent.
Why get involved in brute-forcing when bitcoin mining pays better? You can earn 6.25 BTC for mining one block. With the right equipment, you could earn that kind of cryptocurrency in about 10 minutes. So, why steal BTC if it’s going to take you so much effort when the easier solution is to mine it – whether from your home, your office, or anywhere else.