BitKey: A secure, Debian-based Live OS for bitcoin transactions

The official description of BitKey says that it is a “self-contained read-only CD/USB stick with everything you need to perform highly secure air-gapped Bitcoin transactions.”

It is a side project of the developers of TurnKey Linux, a Debian-based distribution that provides a set of ready-to-use server virtual appliances.

BitKey itself is a simple solution for bitcoin users. The current build offers encrypted wallet storage, and comes in a very minimal Xfce desktop. Minimal in the sense that it comes with only a handful of applications. They are Electrum Bitcoin client, Chromium 35, bitaddress generator, qrcode generator, zxcvbn password strength checker. Thunar file manager, and network device manager.

To use BitKey, you need two USB sticks, labeled Red and Black. The Red USB device is the boot device, the one where the BitKey image is loaded and used for booting the computer. The Black device is used for persistent storage.

When Bitkey is booted, the boot menu offers three options shown in this screenshot – cold-online, cold-offline and hot-online, each offering different levels of convenience, secure and bitcoin-specific features. In cold-offline mode (the default), Chromium browser is not included.
BitKey boot menu

The three images in this gallery show the appearance of the desktops in the different modes of operation.

Regardless of the mode of operation you boot into, you’ll always get this prompt when you click on the Electrum icon when a black USB device is not available.
BitKey red, black boot device

A sample bitcoin address generated.
BitKey bitcoin address

Password strength checker.
BitKey password strength checker

Qrcode generator.
BitKey qrcode generator

That’s about all you get from BitKey, but that’s about all you need for a secure bitcon transactions. BitKey is a brand new option for bitcoin users and I’m sure the developers will like to know what you think of it. ISO images are available from If you prefer rolling your own image, a link to the GitHub-hosted source code is also available on that page.

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