All crypto wallets have a public address as well as a private key. This latter should be protected and kept secret. If anyone gets access to your private key, they will be able to access your Bitcoins.
When bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are generated, they also produce a private key. The more users, the more keys are generated. This often raises the question of whether the increasing number of users will change the odds of guessing a bitcoin private key and result in someone being able to access your crypto
What is a private key?
A Bitcoin private key has 52 characters consisting of letters and numbers. It is, simply, a random number. The set of numbers that can make up a private key is extremely large. The Bitcoin private key can be any number from a maximum of 2 to the power of 256.
How many Bitcoin addresses are there?
Before we discuss if it’s possible to guess a Bitcoin private key, it’s important to understand how many Bitcoin addresses exist.
With the fast adoption of cryptos, some people may decide to become crypto treasure hunters. They may choose to key in address after address until they get an account with thousands of Bitcoins. Now, they can attempt to hack your private key
The risk of someone getting your address will depend on two issues. The number of wallets that exist and the number of wallets that can be generated at any given time. As of February 2020, there were 615,463,205 Bitcoin addresses with a balance of more than zero.
Since there will never be more than 21 million bitcoins consisting of 10⁸ satoshis, the maximum number of addresses that can hold all bitcoins at the same time is 2.1*10¹⁵. This translates into 29 million more addresses than we have today.
This means that the highest number of bitcoin addresses that can hold 1 satoshi each is 2.1*10¹⁵. This is 4392 times more than there are grains of sand on earth. The number of Bitcoin addresses that can exist is more than the number of atoms on earth. The chance of someone locating your address is slim.
What are the odds of randomly generating a bitcoin private key?
The odds of generating a private key randomly are almost zero. A bitcoin key has 160 bits. If there were a billion computers that were each trying a billion keys in a second and this went on for a billion years, they would still have less than one in a billion chance of getting it right.
Therefore, cracking a private key using a brute force attack is impossible. But how much time would you need to crack one bitcoin address on your machine?
A private wallet key is usually a number between 1 and 2^256. In order to crack this code by brute force, a computer would need to keep guessing until it gets a number between 1 and 115 quattuovigintillion(107⁵).
This is a number that cannot even be processed by the human mind. The fastest computer on earth, the IBM summit, is not able to break one single wallet key.
Can you guess your private key to recover your wallet?
If you have lost your password or seed phrase, you may be wondering if it’s possible to guess your password. However, we have seen how useless the brute force method is. Similarly, it would be practically impossible to guess your password.
This is why you should safeguard your private key because recovering it is as tricky as guessing a random one that has a funded account. Unlike an email password or ATM pin, there are no service providers that can help you recover it. The key isn’t even created or stored on the bitcoin network. It’s created by the software.
Therefore, you should keep your private key stored in an offline device or with a trusted person who can hold it offline on your behalf. Never have your key listed in an email or on an online server where a hacker could gain access to it.
One of the reasons why bitcoin critics stay away from cryptocurrency is because they believe their bitcoins can be easily stolen. But from our calculations above, the chances of hacking a wallet with a unique key are similar to winning the Powerball nine times consecutively.
The odds of guessing a bitcoin private key are basically zero. This is the reason why the bitcoin network is very safe. Unless you share your private key with someone, nobody will ever guess it correctly. Always remember, the weakest link in the bitcoin security chain is the user themselves. Keep your bitcoin key data safe, secure, and completely private.