The tragic December death of QuadrigaCX CEO Gerald Cotten has been the subject of much discussion during the last week. 136M (USD) of his cryptocurrency exchange’s resources irretrievably locked in chilly storage when he passed away. The Wall Street Journal as well as others also have reported evidence recommending QuadrigaCX may not have been keeping the resources in cold storage as stated.
A business is exposed to the key person risk when asset security or accessibility depends on a single person. Organizations – whether institutional traders or exchanges – have a responsibility to ensure their resources can’t be unilaterally transferred by any one individual and aren’t entrusted to any one person for safekeeping.
Moreover: mishaps happen, and resources should be stored in such a way that they’ll be secure and accessible no matter what happens to any business member. QuadrigaCX failed to eliminate key person risk, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise: most organizations simply don’t know what best practices to check out when safekeeping digital property.
Even when organizations adopt techniques that control for key person risk, they don’t follow the necessary operational rules usually. For example, I’ve reviewed dozens of institutional self-custody solutions over the full years, but I’ve never seen an insurance plan implemented where a quorum of key-holders is forbidden from riding within an Uber together.
Unfortunately, the fact that answers to problems like key person risk show up self-evident leads many to mistakenly think that their implementation is simple. In practice, these policies are hard to implement and audit consistently. When was the last time you brought your quorum together? Key-person risk is one of dozens of potential issues that organizations holding digital resources must navigate successfully, and most organizations lack the experience in-house to anticipate these pressing issues.
Most worrying of all: if even the issues that want no technological expertise are regularly botched by a range of organizations, think of how unsound the common organization’s technical controls for private key management must be. The safe guardianship of private tips in an accessible manner is a really hard problem. And like other hard problems, it requires specific organizations to deal with it. Anchorage has developed a procedure for digital asset custody that is more secure than cold storage space but also extends all the advantages of asset accessibility. If you’d like to learn more, we invite one to get in contact.
- “Nerf” Ransomware – nw.js
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